Richland County elections director says office is ready for November election

The floods have not stopped the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office from preparing for the upcoming municipal elections Nov. 3. The department’s director says his team is moving forward with the scheduled election date.

“We’re set. We’re ready to go,” said Elections Director Samuel Selph.

Selph said his office would conduct four elections including the city of Columbia, Blythewood, Arcadia Lakes and will run several of the precincts for the Irmo election that are shared with Lexington County.

About 69,100 voters are registered to participate in the elections at 76 precincts. The elections will require 463 machines, which Selph said would begin to be delivered to precincts Oct. 19. An estimated 463 poll workers will monitor the ballots.

Selph said the building that houses the ballot machines was not affected by the floods and that no equipment was damaged.

“Oddly enough, there wasn’t one drop of water that came in that building,” he said.

Only four precincts suffered minimal damage, but that won’t disrupt the voting process, Selph said. Residents who vote at the Earlewood Park precinct will have to use the rear entrance to access the polls.

Arcadia Lakes will continue to have its elections even though the two candidates for open Town Council seats are running unopposed. Selph said Arcadia Lakes Mayor Mark Huguley wants to give residents an opportunity to vote despite state law allowing a single candidate who has filed to automatically be declared the winner.

The mayoral seat in Blythewood and the District 3 seat for Columbia City Council will not be on their respective ballots because each has a single candidate running.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin has been mulling the idea of moving the date of the election because of damage to the roads during the recent flooding, but he has yet to make a firm decision. A spokesperson with the mayor’s office said discussions would not be brought up at the council meeting next Tuesday.

The city’s code requires public notice of an election date 90 days prior to the election. State code mandates at least 60 days notice, followed by a second notice two weeks after.

If the Nov. 3 election was changed, it would occur between late December and January, bumping up to the presidential preference primaries for the Democratic and Republican parties in February.

“I’m not convinced yet that we should postpone the election. But I’ve seen the damage to our roads and bridges firsthand and it’s going to make driving to the polls very difficult in some parts of Columbia,” Benjamin said in an email to Cola Daily. “Couple that with so many displaced residents and last week’s delay in absentee voting and I thought it was a discussion we should have.”

“Our duty is to ensure all of our citizens can exercise their right to vote. Anything less is unacceptable,” he said.