Planning Richland County’s 2012 election didn’t require rocket science, yet the ship exploded. Critics – which is pretty much everyone – say last week’s voting was an utter mess. Election Day was entwined with unmatched voter frustration, people who walked away because of long lines, vote-counting delays, lawsuits, ballot seizures, an election protest and recriminations about the motives of some county election officials. Early voters, trying to get a jump on Tuesday’s election, lined the sidewalk on Harden street at the Richland County administration building all day on Monday.
“I think our voting experience (Tuesday) is as bad as the worst three, four or five counties in the nation,” said Duncan Buell, a USC computer science professor who has analyzed South Carolina voting patterns for eight years. “I don’t know that there are many counties in the country that it took that long,” Buell said of precinct lines that resulted in some voters waiting as many as seven hours or going home without exercising their constitutional right.
As Election Week 2 begins, voters wonder when the state Supreme Court might decide whether Tuesday’s unofficial outcomes will stand or if the justices will OK a recount, which the chief justice halted on Friday at the request of the state GOP.
The chief justice’s order froze election processes and led to the postponement of an inquiry by county legislators who created the Elections & Voter Registration office that is at the center of the public outcry.
But discontented voters on Monday plan to call for a new election and to vent allegations that voting machine shortages seemed to occur at precincts where opposition to the controversial penny sales tax increase was strong and that machines hindered straight-ticket voting.