Faith leaders, politicians call for change in future Richland County elections

The State Election Commission announced it would be stepping in to supervise the June 23 run-offs

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WOLO) — Several faith leaders and politicians made their voices heard Monday to criticize the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections for their handling of the  June 9 primary election.

Several voters complained of long lines, incomplete or handwritten ballots, and a severe shortage of poll workers as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some voters waited in line at polling places past midnight, and some showed up to the wrong polling place after 70 precincts were combined two weeks earlier.

State Representatives Beth Bernstein (D-Richland County) and Ivory Thigpen (D-Richland County) were joined by Richland County Council candidate Hamilton Grant (D), Columbia Urban League President J.T. McLawhorn and several local faith leaders at a press conference Monday to voice their concerns with last week’s primary.

Grant said voters came up to him and told him that his election was not featured on the ballot in his district, which is in the northeastern part of Columbia and includes the Decker Street district.

The State Election Commission, after hearing from several Richland County lawmakers, announced their intention to step in and help Richland County with their run-off election June 23, saying it is disappointing to see how the county’s election handled the primary. They also called for the board to hire a new director, saying the lack of leadership is preventing efficient and effective elections from happening.

This comes a year after Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) fired the county’s entire election board. They have not hired a full-time board director, but Chairman Charles P. Austin Sr. told ABC Columbia they would have someone hired by July 1. Terry Graham is currently serving as Interim Director.

Still, Grant says changes need to be made from the top-down.

“It’s important to have people that recognize this for what it was,” Grant said. “We need to actually work towards solutions, so I would just employ and ask the people of Richland County if for no other motivating factor, come back in to vote the people in who you believe are going to do right.”

Grant is running against attorney Overture Walker in the run-off June 23. Here’s a full list of Richland County elections going to a run-off next week (incumbents in italics):

*RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL (District 7): Gretchen Barron (D) vs. Gwendolyn Kennedy (D)

*RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL (District 8): Hamilton Grant (D) vs. Overture Walker (D)

*RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL (District 9): Jonneika Farr (D) vs. Calvin “Chip” Jackson (D)

*RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL (District 10): Cheryl English (D) vs. Dahli Myers (D)

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