Columbia, Richland County leaders promise swift action against voter intimidation, harassment
Columbia Police Department, Richland Co. Sheriff's Department say officers will be on hand to address any concerns on Election Day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — As thousands of voters line up to make their voices heard leading to the general election November 3, agencies in both Columbia and Richland County promised voters they will do their part to make sure everyone’s vote is protected from intimidation.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a press conference Monday afternoon there are no active outside threats to tamper with anyone’s vote, but that his deputies and officers with the Columbia Police Department will respond swiftly if a situation arises.
In the last few weeks, thousands have lined up at polling places across Richland County to cast their votes for the November election. Thousands more are expected to vote-by-mail, and several are planning on lining up to vote on Election Day.
However, with rumors of voter intimidation swirling around this upcoming election, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said it will take a collaborative effort to prevent anyone from tampering with someone’s right to vote.
“How we do that is by ensuring fair and equitable access to the polls, and that anyone who dares to interfere with our citizens’ rights to the ballot, they will be dealt with clearly and harshly under the laws of the state and country,” Mayor Benjamin said.
Local leaders reminded voters that they are not allowed to bring a concealed weapon to the polling place, and that poll watchers have to follow a strict set of rules if they want to be allowed inside a polling place.
Fifth District Solicitor Byron Gipson says there is no good reward if someone tries to intimidate a voter.
“They should expect to be prosecuted, and if found of guilty of this class E felony of intimidating voters or trying to threaten voters, they could face up to 10 years in jail and a fine in the discretion of the court,” Gipson said.
Sheriff Lott told reporters Monday his team has been working with the county’s Board of Elections and Voter Registrations on an action plan if there is any report of voter intimidation at any polling place, but as of now, he hasn’t heard of any reports of voter harassment.
“We’re here, we are going to have our officers ready, we have a plan in place, where we’re going to have people ready to respond if need be,” Sheriff Lott said.
Also present at the press conference in Columbia were Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook and Richland County Council Chair Paul Livingston.
In Richland County, voters can line up outside the Office of Elections and Voter Registration on Hampton Street, or opt to go to a satellite polling location if they want to vote prior to November 3.
These locations, which will be open to voters from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. include:
- Garners Ferry Adult Activity Center (8620 Garners Ferry Road, Hopkins)
- Adult Activity Center — Parklane (7494 Parklane Road, Columbia)
- Ballentine Community Center (1009 Bickley Road, Irmo)
- North Springs Park Community Center (1320 Clemson Road, Columbia)’
- Masonic Temple (2324 Gervais Street, Columbia)
The Richland County Administration Building will also be open to voters on October 24 and October 31 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.