The problem with combining the Richland County elections and voter registration commissions wasn’t the idea: There’s no good reason to have two separate agencies handling such interrelated functions. The problem — the reason the merger led to one of the biggest election fiascos in the state’s modern history, the reason a Circuit Court judge has declared the law that combined the agencies unconstitutional — was the way our legislators chose to accomplish it. They accomplished it through a law that applied only to Richland County, which our state constitution prohibits in almost all cases. And one reason our constitution prohibits such laws is that they invite and involve state legislators meddling into the internal operations of agencies — in this case, giving them the power to hire the director of the new agency, which they did for clearly political reasons and to clearly disastrous results.
So we’re delighted that Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson has pledged to try again to pass a law to at least provide a mechanism for getting legislative delegations out of the business of overseeing county election offices. His proposal would allow, though not require, each county’s legislative delegation to turn control of the county elections and voter registration offices over to the county council; the county council then could deicide to combine the offices, appoint commissioners to oversee elections and make other changes.