Richland County voters could learn as early as this afternoon what the county’s official results are in the Nov. 6 county elections. Votes will be tallied beginning at 1 p.m. on the fourth floor of the county administration building on Harden Street, Election Commission chairwoman Liz Crum said Tuesday evening. “We will get this done, and we will get it done right,” Crum said. Election observers and news media can observe county officials do the count. “Everybody on hand can watch the canvassing,” she said. “We never finished counting the vote – this is not a recount.”
Crum spoke several hours later at county elections offices after the S.C. Supreme Court dismissed all pending legal actions that had frozen completion of an official Richland County tally.
The justices’ Tuesday afternoon order also directed SLED – which late last week had seized all electronic voting cartridges and paper ballots used in the election – to return that material to the Richland County Election Commission by 5 p.m. Tuesday. That was done.
The county’s Nov. 6 election was marked by shortages of voting machines and precinct workers, as well as numerous machine breakdowns. Thousands of people stood in long lines up to five hours, and many people – no one knows how many – chose to not vote rather than to wait. Critics called it one of the most bungled county elections in modern state history.
The day after the election, the tally in some races still was not finished. With people in some people precincts voting after 11:30 p.m., ballot boxes didn’t make it to elections offices until after midnight. Then, problems counting absentee ballots delayed many results until the next afternoon.
Questions arose about missing machines and whether all votes had been properly counted, especially in the tight House 75 race between Kirkman Finlay, a Republican, and Democrat Joe McCulloch. In that race, preliminary results show Finlay beat McCulloch by fewer than 300 votes, according to county elections officials. However, in an earlier tally, officials said McCulloch was the winner.
Crum said she didn’t expect the preliminary results of any race to be overturned by today’s tabulation. However, she said, “Anything is possible, but I don’t know if it’s probable. We’ve got no way of telling whether any elections will change or not.”
S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian said late Tuesday that he thinks votes from some machines in the Finlay-McCulloch race were not counted. And he thinks there might have been uncounted votes among paper absentee ballots. “It may be that Finlay won the race after all,” Harpootlian said.