Voters appeared to soundly say “no” to the county-wide referendum asking if they preferred to change the form of government from council-administrator to council-manager, according to unofficial numbers.
With two precincts unreported as of press time, 61.7 percent of Aiken County voters voted “no” to change the form of government while 38 percent voted “yes.” “No” votes garnered 29,152 votes out of the total 47,232 vast. “Yes” votes garnered 18,080.
Absentee votes had not been counted by press time. Results from the two precincts not yet reported are not expected to be counted and released until sometime Wednesday, according to an Aiken County Election official.
If the majority of votes were “yes” votes, the change in form of government would have meant the county auditor and treasurer would no longer be elected, but appointed.
“Early on I suggested the referendum would not pass county-wide because people would not give up their right to vote. I am pleased the voters of Aiken County realized what was at stake and voted accordingly,” said County Council Chairman Ronnie Young.
Voter Cleve Walker said Tuesday he voted “yes” on the referendum.
“Trying that model (council-manager) may be more efficient,” he said.
First-time voter Ben Hepner voted “no.”
“I like the way the government is run now,” he said.
Councilman Scott Singer lobbied for the change for a while, saying that no organization responsible for the amount of money Aiken County handles would permit someone without relevant accounting skills or experience to act as treasurer.
Currently, the only qualifications a treasurer and auditor must meet are that they be at least 18 years old and live in Aiken County. Any change to those qualifications would reportedly have to come from the state legislature.
“I obviously knew this was going to be an uphill battle. Change is difficult,” Singer said. “I look forward to working with Charles Barton as auditor and whoever the treasurer is. I do think it's ludicrous that there are no qualifications for someone who handles millions and millions of dollars.”
Incumbent treasurer Linda Sharpe will complete her term in office, which expires June 2013, then retire. Auditor Cyrus Spradley retired earlier this year.
“I hope the referendum sends a message to the state that there are only things only they can do,” said County Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie. “I heard from people that they would like to elect those people, but there need to be qualifications.”
York and Greenwood are the only two counties out of South Carolina's 46 that appoint their auditor and treasurer.
“I am relieved at that (the referendum's failure) because I feel those people should be elected,” said treasurer hopeful Debra Folk.
Treasurer hopeful Jason Goings said, “I knew it would fail. I don't know why anyone would worry about that.”