The Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, a useless entity created by the county’s legislative delegation for its own perverse, unknowable reasons, should definitely cease to exist.
The State made that case fairly thoroughly today. An excerpt:
The board has failed repeatedly to act in the public’s best interest. While former director Lillian McBride shoulders much of the blame for the botched election, a preliminary report noted that the board had failed to ask important questions.
After the election fiasco, the board initially refused to acknowledge that it had the power to discipline the director; when the panel finally acknowledged its authority, it refused to remove Ms. McBride. Once Ms. McBride resigned, the board bent over backward — much farther than it should have — to accommodate her, creating a deputy director’s slot that pays $74,600.
When it embarked upon the single most significant task involved in rebuilding public confidence and trust — hiring a credible director — the board blew it. It created a search committee led by a member who had just joined the board. That search committee chairman caused tension by barring a fellow member of the Board of Elections from discussions with candidates; he also played a role in the committee’s refusal to release the names of the three finalists as required by law.
But The State secured the names of the finalists and, through routine checks, discovered problems in each candidate’s work history. As troubling as it is that the candidates failed to reveal the matters, it is also unacceptable that the committee didn’t conduct a thorough enough search to discover them.
When two of the finalists withdrew their names, the only prudent thing to do was to start a new search. Instead, the Board of Elections hired the remaining finalist — Howard Jackson, the Orangeburg County elections director.
Mr. Jackson failed to tell search committee members that he had been investigated in 2008 for election-law violations involving alleged absentee ballot irregularities.
The State Law Enforcement Division found no wrongdoing, but his failure to be upfront about it doesn’t engender trust, which is essential to turning the Richland County office around…
But in case you find The State‘s opprobrium to measured and calm, there’s always Mia McLeod out there to channel our rage, like Key and Peele’s “Obama’s Anger Translator.” She put this release out today:
Since the infamous Richland County Elections fiasco of 2012, the Old Guard (“OG”) has really ramped it up a few notches. Turns out…fiercely protecting and defending incompetence is only a fraction of the skills they’ve acquired during their 6-month tirade.
Who else could take a beyond-botched general election and turn it into a reality-tv scandal in a matter of days? Yeah, the OG is mega-talented, alright. Some parts scripted…some not…but clearly, no shortage of actors or creative content.
And while the OG renders Oscar-worthy performances…it’s Richland County voters who stood in line for 6-8 hours last November, only to be cast as “extras” in this dramatic mini-series.
But sometimes, “extras” stumble onto their “five minutes of fame” and this time was no different because these lucky voters not only got a chance to be disenfranchised one time…they got to experience a 6-month “Exclusion Extravaganza!” And they even get to pay for it.
In fact, the OG was gracious enough to allow us to take an “after-the-fact” glimpse of behind-the-scenes footage, just so our palates can get a taste (never-mind the smell) of what they’ve crammed down our throats.
Okay, I think we’re ready. Open wide, now…
(Brief pause while we rewind. Please hold your applause until the end).
November 6, 2012 – The biggest voter disenfranchisement in SC history
OG advises Elections Director to “shut-up” and shut it down, while they develop their game plan
Attorney General issues Opinion: County Legislative Delegation has no authority to fire Elections Director, despite hiring her
OG launches aggressive lobbying effort to influence County Elections Commissioners and Council members to not fire Director, while“stacking the deck” with OG Elections Commissioner(s); (new) OG Commissioner appointed; begins serving “officially” the same day
OG controls delegation meetings to appease and deceive the public; stalls for time
Investigative report” reveals the obvious…Director is responsible for Election Day debacle by not deploying enough machines or staffers
OG back room negotiations continue, to protect & insulate Director
Elections Director prematurely announces resignation (through attorney) to Legislative Delegation during executive session; delegation member publicly discloses the impending resignation too soon; director reneges until OG finalizes her “deal”
OG successfully secures contractual agreement for Director, who is publicly “demoted” and privately promoted to a newly created taxpayer-funded position
OG appoints Interim Director; pays him big money to carry out “master plan”; names “Search Committee” for new Director; stacks deck with OG members to ensure desired results
OG repeatedly refuses to acknowledge or accept meeting requests by delegation members to discuss critical elections issues
Seventeen applications received and “screened” by the Search Committee; three applicants meet eligibility requirements; two of three finalists “mysteriously” withdraw their names in the final hours
OG announces to the public and delegation on May 15th, that remaining finalist is new director and proudly welcomes yet another “Jackson” into the fold; trio (Delegation Chair, Councilman, Elections Director) is complete
OG schedules first delegation meeting of 2013 for June 4th (2 days before session ends), after critical elections decisions have been made
So with all due respect to the new Richland County Elections Director, because the OG has consistently and calculatedly closed the process to the public, his hiring and everything associated with it, looks and smells… shady. Why not reopen (or open) the process to new applicants instead of choosing one by default?
Quite frankly, it’s the “stench” of the last six months that makes so many of us turn up our noses in disbelief and disgust. So even if Mr. Jackson is the best Elections Director this county has ever seen (and he very well could be…) the OG has gone out of its way to present him on a filthy garbage can lid instead of the fine China that might’ve been a much more fitting and flattering accompaniment.
And once again, Richland County residents are the forsaken, forgotten ones. But, it’s not Mr. Jackson that we loathe. It’s the process and the “platter” upon which he was presented.
Closed-door meetings. Back-room deals. Lies. Cover-ups.
What else could we possibly need to restore public trust? This scandal leaves Richland County voters with uncounted ballots and a $153,000 bill. How could we not have confidence in a process that obviously works? Bravo, OG!
Perhaps Mr. Jackson will find his role in the sequel because in 2014 and 2016, the curtain rises again. Only this time, the “extras” are gonna make their debut…center stage. And the OG’s season finale will hopefully bring its tumultuous reign to an end.
Now, that episode will be one worth watching. Stay tuned…