There’s a saying: If you don’t like the weather in South Carolina, wait five minutes. This year, that might also be said for election results. The Great Richland County Election Debacle of 2012 is already being described in monumental terms. In news stories, The State has called it “perhaps the mother of all bungled county elections in modern S.C. history.” State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian summed it up in fewer words. “It’s f#!ked up,” he said. Richland County Democratic Rep. Mia Butler characterized it even more succinctly. “Inexcusable,” she called the county’s election process in an open letter to media and her constituents.
Anyone who waited in line for three to seven hours — or longer — to vote on a chilly Election Day Nov. 6 would likely agree. Horror stories of snarled precincts, testy poll workers, malfunctioning voting machines and lost ballots were rampant. And then came the results. Or, really, a lack of them.
When the initial numbers came in from the State Elections Commission on Election Night, it appeared Democrat Joe McCulloch had won his bid for an open Columbia House seat against Republican Kirkman Finlay, and Democratic Richland County Council candidate Julie Ann Dixon had lost to incumbent Republican Val Hutchinson.
But then more votes came in, including absentee ballots. When it was all over, Dixon would have lost, won, then lost again before ultimately winning her election, according to state Democratic Party director Amanda Loveday.