Tea Party activists say Beaufort County elections didn't follow laws

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Tea Party activists say Beaufort County elections didn't follow laws

By CASEY CONLEY
cconley@islandpacket.com
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013   |  540 Words  |  

Bluffton TEA Party members on Wednesday presented Beaufort County elections officials with a long list of "irregularities" its members said they saw during the 2012 election.

Nearly 60 volunteers compiled the report from first-hand observations during in-person absentee voting at county elections offices in Bluffton and Beaufort. They claim, among other things, that voting machines were too close together and that instructions for the machines and sample ballots weren't provided.

The group also alleges too few elections staff were working, that voting machines were left unattended and that voter assistance laws weren't followed. The group also claimed its volunteers were treated poorly by poll some workers and county staff.

The group stopped short, however, of claiming evidence of voter fraud.

Diana Negley, who presented the report to the Beaufort County Board of Elections & Registration, believes better training for election workers would solve many of the issues.

"They either don't know or think they don't have to obey the laws," she said after the meeting at the county's offices on Industrial Village Road in Burton.

While Negley identified herself as a concerned citizen, others present Wednesday said the tea party group was behind the effort.

Scott Marshall, executive director of the elections board, said he was "grateful" for the group's work. He hadn't seen the report until Wednesday and described it as "a lot to digest."

"There are some allegations in there that probably warrant a further look into and maybe adjustments in procedures," he said.

Marshall, paraphrasing S.C. Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal, said no election is ever perfect. While that's not an excuse to fall short, Marshall said, the county's elections "are not a corrupt process."

"Even if all (their claims) are true, I heard nothing that said somebody was disallowed to vote or that someone was allowed to vote fraudulently," he said. "I didn't hear that in any of those situations."

Members of the election board, while taking no action Wednesday, planned to review the allegations in depth during future meetings.

"I think we absolutely need to cover a lot of those issues, if not every single one," said chairman Ron Clifford, who pledged to "attack those issues and come up with solutions."

Morris Campbell, the county's director of community services and a former county elections official who was at the meeting, said it wasn't uncommon for concerns to arise shortly after an election. He plans to work with Marshall to address many of the issues before the next major election.

Also on Wednesday, Marshall gave an update on the state's new voter ID law that took effect Jan. 1, and discussed upcoming elections, including one on Jan. 29 for the Bluffton-area County Council seat vacated last month by state Rep. Weston Newton.

Related content

  1. Marshall: Time to reform SC elections laws, Dec. 21, 2012
  2. Tea Party Express rallies faithful in Bluffton, Sept. 10, 2011