Dueling, partisan bills were filed Tuesday at the State House to change the way elections are run across South Carolina. The proposals are the first statewide ripple effect from Richland County’s election meltdown that outraged thousands, disenfranchised uncounted would-be voters and held no one accountable six weeks after the fiasco. Bills sponsored by Democrats call for stripping local election boards of their power and centralizing control in the State Election Commission. The state agency also would set statewide standards for qualifications of local election directors, mandate their training and generally transfer supervision away from all 46 counties.
“We’re trying to really do what should have been done a long time ago,” Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said of the legislation he submitted. He described the thrust of the bill as an attempt to centralize and modernize state election laws. “It is absolutely where we need to head.”
The version proposed by Republican lawmakers is much more sweeping. It would dissolve the State Election Commission and transfer statewide control to a new elections division in the secretary of state’s office.
The elected secretary would select the head of the division. The governor would appoint local voter registration boards in the seven counties that still have separate registration and elections boards.