Reaction generally was positive Tuesday to legislation that would put Aiken County’s Elections Office under the day-to-day supervision of the County Council.
However, many of the people who would be affected by the bill said they weren’t aware of it until recently, so they still were trying to learn about all its provisions and understand how they would work.
“I didn’t know the details of the legislation until (Tuesday) morning,” said County Administrator Clay Killian. “I think it could be a good thing because you would have more direct daily supervision of the office. The delegation members are obviously going to be in Columbia three days a week during the legislative session, and that creates logistical issues for them. But if (elections office employees) do work for the County Council, the way the bill is written now, there is somebody here they can go to for assistance on a regular basis as opposed to having to wait until somebody is available.”
The legislative delegation discussed the bill during its meeting Monday evening.
The S.C. House passed the bill late last month after the five House members of the delegation introduced it. It is now under consideration by the Senate.
“I’m still trying to understand exactly how they want to structure this,” said Killian, who discussed the legislation Tuesday with District 24 Sen. Tom Young and District 25 Sen. Shane Massey. “I want to make sure if (day-to-day responsibility) comes to us, that we do it the way that it is supposed to be done. I do have some questions, and I’m trying to get those questions answered. I want to know more about it.”
Under the legislation’s provisions, South Carolina’s governor would appoint the seven members of the Aiken County Registration and Elections Commission based on the recommendation of the majority of the legislative delegation’s representative and senators. County Council would appoint and could remove the executive director of Registration and Elections.
“I have questions mostly about the appointment of the Registration and Elections commission by somebody other than the County Council, who under this legislation as written, will be responsible for the elections office and its staff,” Killian said. “I just need to know what role they’re planning on having that commission play in setting policy for the office that will be run by a different organization.”
Council member LaWana McKenzie was not familiar with the legislation’s details and said she would need to know more about them before forming an opinion.
“I want to know what the proposal actually was; I was not at that (legislative delegation) meeting,” she said. “Are they giving us total control, or are they just giving us certain portions of it? Over the years, we’ve found that a lot of times, the state will give us what they don’t want to deal with, but they keep the part they do want to keep. Sometimes it makes it very difficult to deal with something when we don’t have total control.
“I can’t say yay or nay until I see the devil in the details.”
Council Chairman Ronnie Young described himself as “open to” the legislation’s proposals.
“If they want them (elections office employees) to come to us, that would be fine,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with that. If the elections office had issues, they would have somebody right here to go to – not that we would tell them what to do. But if they had issues or needs, it would be convenient for them, especially when we go to our new (government center) and we’re all in one location.”
Council member Scott Singer liked the idea of the council supervising the elections office.
“I heard about it (the legislation) through the grapevine last week,” he said. “I’m not well-versed on it, but at first blush, it makes a lot of sense. I would be in favor of more local control, because I’m a firm proponent of home rule. I think the closer you push government down to the local level, the more responsive it is to the citizenry.”
Aiken County Registration and Elections Executive Director Cynthia Holland supported the idea of the county supervising the elections office. She first heard about the legislation last week while attending a conference.
The legislative delegation’s members are “elected officials, and we conduct the elections,” she said. “It would take some of the politics off of us. I think it would be good not to be under them.”
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