The Aiken County Legislative Delegation has long served as a “manager” for the Aiken County Board of Voter Registration and Elections – but not anymore.
A new law approved by the S.C. General Assembly has required Aiken County legislators to replace the old board with a new one with full responsibilities.
That’s “a really big deal, and I’m personally thrilled by this step forward,” said S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken.
For many years, the Aiken Delegation has functioned in a supervisory role over the Election Office’s executive director.
In Aiken County, and others throughout the state, election boards will take over that role, said Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, the delegation chairman.
“I think it will be a good law statewide,” he said. “We won’t have the responsibility on that office.”
The new law retains the authority of the county lawmakers to recommend board members to the governor.
Lawmakers have done just that, sending six names to Gov. Nikki Haley, who confirmed the appointments.
Once five people were confirmed, the previous board was immediately abolished – although the formal oath of office won’t take place until Aug. 11, said former Chairman Kay McIver.
She is continuing to serve in that role before a new election is held.
Three other members are also holdovers – Sarah Rutland, Andrew Marine and Floria Harris. The newcomers thus far are David Didimanoff and Paul Hudak.
The Elections Board previously had seven members. The new board can have as many as nine; and Smith anticipates the delegation will fill the remaining three slots.
McIver has served on the Board for 20 years.
She and the other members have received information on their revamped roles from Patrick Dennis, chief counsel for the S.C. House Judiciary Committee.
McIver will get additional training in Columbia.
“In the past, the board was responsible for the elections, but had no say-so,” she said. “The director answers to the Delegation. Over the years, we had members resign because of that fact. This is going to be a new adjustment for all of us.”
For the past 18 years, Smith joined the elections office director during the budget process every year, supporting that official as he or she made a recommendation on funding needs to the county administrator.
“Now the board will do it,” Smith said.
Ultimately, the Registration and Elections Board should have the authority in providing good, fair elections, Taylor said. He anticipates the elections office will receive more supervision.
“It’s very clear that people have had problems with the office,” Taylor said. “My hope is that with full authority, the new commission will see that the office will be the best it can be.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.