Embarrassing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rep. Mia Garrick, SC House of Representatives   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:53

After Monday’s "legislative fact-finding," the public can now add a plethora of excuses to this real-life "reality TV" drama. From the nameless subordinate who screwed everything up to the mysterious numbers in red that just magically appeared, we can blame this debacle on broken voting machine batteries and phantom PEBs…but alas, there we were 20 days and a grueling 3.5 hours later, and very few new facts, if any, were revealed.

Here’s what we knew before Monday’s meeting:

• The Richland County Election Commission broke the law on Election day, by deploying an inadequate number of machines at most Richland County precincts.

• No one, including the Director, can tell us why.

• Many Richland County voters stood in line for 3-6 hours or more, braving cold, harsh conditions regardless of age, physical conditions or disabilities

• Many Richland County voters were not able to cast their ballots because of the extensive waits and were effectively disenfranchised.

• Although these Ivotronic machines have been in use across SC for 8 years now, only Richland County had the types of issues we faced on Nov. 6. The other 45 counties executed their elections without significant incident.

Here’s what Monday’s 3.5 hour fact-finding hearing revealed:

• The Richland County Election Commission broke the law on Election day, by deploying an inadequate number of machines at most Richland County precincts.

• No one, including the Director, can tell us why.

• Many Richland County voters stood in line for 3-6 hours or more, braving cold, harsh conditions regardless of age, physical conditions or disabilities.

• Many Richland County voters were not able to cast their ballots because of the extensive waits and were effectively disenfranchised.

• Although these Ivotronic machines have been in use across SC for 8 years now, only Richland County had the types of issues we faced on Nov. 6. The other 45 counties executed their elections without significant incident.

The technical aspects of how the machines work shouldn’t have been our primary focus and yet, the first half of our meeting was devoted to technical information that is of little or no value to voters who only want assurances that they can exercise their rights to vote and that their votes will be counted.

But this hearing wasn’t really about the voters of Richland County, was it? If it had been, members of the legislative delegation wouldn’t have been forced to "sign-up" like school kids, just to ask questions of the Director and Commissioner. What’s the purpose of having a "legislative fact-finding" hearing if legislators can’t ask probing questions? Why would any legislator be chastised for suggesting, as I did, that the delegation also give the public/voters an opportunity to be heard?

Yesterday’s meeting seemed to be more about confusing or minimizing the facts, rather than "finding" them. Like many of you, I don’t think they were ever "lost." And although I’m one of the delegation’s newest members, I don’t need permission to host a public hearing in my District. I’ve already hosted several in the 2 years I’ve served and will host more over the next 2 years.

But this Election Day disaster was not unique to House District 79. In fact, every Richland County voter was impacted. So I simply argued that our legislative delegation should want to hear from every voter who wants to be heard. After all, we’re elected to represent you, so shouldn’t you be an integral and important part of this so-called fact-finding mission?

This is not about "throwing the Director (or anyone else) under the bus." It’s about holding those responsible for this debacle, accountable. And even more importantly, it’s about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voters across Richland County who faced unprecedented and unnecessary impediments while trying to cast their ballots. It’s about the Richland County voters who were disenfranchised and denied their fundamental rights on that day.

Maybe some of my colleagues in the delegation didn’t witness the devastation of voters who were disenfranchised on Nov. 6th, but I did. And I’ll never forget it.

After 20 days, we’re left with more questions than answers, more apologies, more confusion and more blaming. And yet, there’s no accountability and admittedly, no plan for moving forward.

That does absolutely nothing to restore my confidence in the county’s election commission leaders or its electoral process. So tell me… what does it do for yours?