Voters lined up to vote early at Richland County’s election headquarters in advance of the Fall 2022 election. (File photo/Carolina News and Reporter)
Richland County elections officials are looking for new temporary voting polls for the November election amid school safety concerns.
Municipal elections took place in early May in Forest Acres. Polling places included Richland School District One’s Crayton Middle and Brockman Elementary schools, even though school was in session.
Parents later raised issues about security and visitors’ easy access to children during a May 9 Richland One board meeting.
The next election, a special election, is set to take place Oct. 24, creating a race to find secure and safe polling locations.
“We look at the election and the other precincts involved,” Travis Alexander said, director of voter registration and elections for the county. “… Typically, the temporary move is at a precinct that is already involved in the election.”
Changing locations for the polls is not an unusual thing. The code of law for South Carolina states that all universities and public schools must be closed for the use of voting during major elections.
In practice, that’s mostly in November.
“There’s no school in session during your bigger elections,” Alexander said. “It only becomes a problem when school is in session.”
Alexander said members of the Richland County legislative delegation must vote on polling place changes.
The search for a temporary location usually happens in its own precinct. But if a location can not be found, polling can be set up within 5 miles of a precinct’s line.
Location accommodations such as capacity, parking and accessibility must be made quickly, though, sometimes making it tricky to find venues.
“Say you had 500 (voters) at one location and 1000 at the other one, we try to make sure that location combined can hold if all 100% of the voters came out,”Alexander said.
Richland County has more than 100 precincts and polling places and can be found at scVOTES.gov.
“For Richland County, we have a mix of churches, county parks, city parks – it’s a good mix of all of those,”Alexander said.
The problem for the county’s Voter Registration and Elections office comes with any scheduling conflicts some of these locations may have.
“Even with our churches, some of them have things on their books already,” Alexander said. “We have the election coming up in October that a lot of people didn’t know about.”
The elections office already has started the search to find a temporary location for the Senate District 19 special election to fill the seat of Sen. John Scott of Columbia, who died in early August.
New Heights Church on Broad River Road could be a potential polling location for the county. (Photo by Langston Brooks/Carolina News and Reporter)
The Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections is located in the county administration building at 2020 Hampton St. (Photo by Langston Brooks/Carolina News and Reporter)
Crayton Middle School was used for voting in the Forest Acres general election this past May. (Photo by Langston Brooks/Carolina News and Reporter)