The first meeting of the new Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Board on Tuesday included confusion over rules and a dispute over the security of the county’s voting machines. The meeting opened with state Sen. John Scott swearing in the board’s four new members, appointed by legislators after a recent shake-up. The board then elected new member Marjorie Johnson as chairwoman in a 4-0 vote with the other nominee, Pete Kennedy, abstaining. The board’s lone veteran, Adell Adams, was elected vice chairwoman in a 3-2 vote after a motion by Jane Dreher Emerson to postpone that vote was defeated. Johnson initially abstained in the vote for a vice chairperson, and confusion ensued over whether the chairwoman should always vote or if she should vote only when needed to break a tie. Adams said the chairwoman always voted and was not allowed to abstain. When Johnson questioned this, Adams said, “We have five votes. We always vote.” Johnson then voted for Adams as vice chairwoman, breaking the tie. The board did not consult any rules or bylaws concerning the powers of the chairwoman.
Interim Elections Director Samuel Selph reported to the board on preparations for the Nov. 4 general election. “I consider my office really ready,” he said. But he immediately followed that statement saying, “On Election Day, you will have start-up problems early in the morning.”
Johnson questioned Selph about the security of voting machines, expressing dissatisfaction with the current storage location. Selph said he was in discussions with the county administrator to find a better place. “I need the time shortened. We need it now. We need it for the public’s confidence, and I am not confident,” Johnson said.
State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, who attended the meeting, rose during the time allotted for public comment and asked Selph about security for the voting machines between Oct. 21 (when they are delivered to polling places) and the election. “They’re under lock and key,” Selph responded, but was immediately contradicted by Emerson.
“I know from experience the machines are not under lock and key,” Emerson said. “When my son was at A.C. Moore [Elementary School, a polling place], the machines were right there in the gym with balls bouncing off them.”