Richland County’s state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation to shift oversight of elections to the counties that pay for them. The bills come as Richland County’s lawmakers work to address problems that led to the 2012 election debacle, where mismanagement and long lines at the polls produced one of the biggest voting disasters in state history. Now, Richland County’s legislative delegation names the board members who oversee elections and voter registration, said state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, a sponsor of the legislation in the House. The counties that pay for elections should have that authority if they want it, he said. “The people of Richland County would be best served by a level of government that regularly meets and provides oversight and funding (of elections),” Smith said. “It’s a solid stab at good government, better government, to devolve these responsibilities to County Council,” he said.
Bills, filed in the House and Senate, would give county governments the option of taking on the responsibility of appointing elections board members as long as a county’s legislative delegation agrees to transfer that authority.
The proposals also would allow counties to merge their voter registration and elections operations in a way that supporters say would avoid courts calling that combination unconstitutional.