COLUMBIA — Republican Rep. Nathan Ballentine is the first member of the Richland County legislative delegation to call for the firing of the county’s election director.
Ballentine sent out a news release Friday saying Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Director Lillian McBride must be let go to restore the public’s confidence that the county can properly run its elections.
“Like most voters, when it comes to this Election Day mess in Richland County, I have simply heard enough. Thousands of Richland County voters were disenfranchised and no amount of apologies will fix that,” wrote Ballentine, whose district covers the suburbs northwest of Columbia.
During a public hearing Monday, McBride said a half-dozen times she was sorry for the Election Day mess. But she did not answer repeated questions about why the county sent fewer voting machines to precincts for the 2012 election than it did in 2010.
Some people waited in line for five hours or more to vote. The final ballots in Richland County weren’t cast until after midnight Election Day.
The 15-member Richland County delegation hired McBride a year ago at the same time they merged the running of elections with the department that handled voter registration. McBride was the supervisor of the registration side.
The State newspaper reported that McBride’s salary was set at $67,518 the day she was hired. One day later, her pay jumped to $85,000. In less than 18 months, she has received two more raises and currently makes $89,124. South Carolina Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino, who oversees elections across the state, makes $90,281.
But there are questions over who can fire McBride. The Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that the Richland County Election Board can fire her. The board met Thursday to hear that opinion, but took no action. A lawyer for the board is investigating the problems from Election Day and has promised a comprehensive report in the next month.
Ballentine wasn’t the only lawmaker angry at Monday’s public hearing. Rep. Mia Butler Garrick, a Democrat whose district includes suburbs northeast of Columbia that saw some of the longest lines, sent a note to constituents after the meeting saying it added a stack of excuses, but no real answers to the Election Day problems.
“This is not about ‘throwing the Director (or anyone else) under the bus,”’ Garrick wrote. “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.”