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Director of Lexington County Voter Registration and Election Commission clarifies the decision and process for South Congaree Council Race Hearing

Lexington, SC 04/12/2024 (Paul Kirby) – The Lexington County’s Voter Registration and Election Commission Director Lenice Shoemaker told the staff of the Lexington Ledger last week that what former South Congaree Town Council Member and Council Candidate Bob Porter alleged happened in the Municipal Council Race on April 2, 2024, were unfounded. Shoemaker said there are many checks and balances in place that are followed for every Election, no matter how small or large.

 

Shoemaker, and the Commission she works with, runs all Elections in Lexington County. She is a salaried employee of Lexington County and says that the even a month prior to the Election, every staff member, including herself, work 60 to 80 hours per week, preparing for Election Day.  This was evident when she called The Ledger staff for an interview shortly after 7:00 a.m. one morning recently. “During the Election seasons, I am often here after 11:00 p.m. It’s not uncommon for me to come to work near daybreak and leave well after dark,” Shoemaker stated.

 

If an Election is appealed, that appeal is heard by the Lexington County Voter Registration and Registration Board. Its members are appointed by the Governor of SC with recommendations from the County’s Legislative Delegation. Each of these commissioners must meet several requirements to serve. Those are spelled out in SECTION 7-5-10 of the laws of the State of South Carolina. This section also spells out what their responsibilities and training requirements are and details how they can be ousted from the commission by the Governor if they don’t meet or maintain the necessary attendance, training, and other requirements.



In reference to Porter’s appeal of South Congaree’s April 2, 2024, General Election, Porter said he and his wife had stopped by a restaurant to grab a meal after the polls closed when several residents of the town approached him and told him that on one voting machine they were instructed to use, it did not have his name on the ballot. He had also been told by citizens that 11 voters who previously voted in South Congaree’s Municipal Elections were turned away from the polls after being told they either didn’t live in the town or not enough off their property was in South Congaree to make them eligible to vote in the town’s elections. After hearing this, Porter went the following morning (4/3/2024) to the Voter Registration and Election Commission located on West Main Street in Lexington and filed an appeal.

 

To help clarify Porter’s questions, Shoemaker made these remarks. “Election law 5-15-130 states that a Candidates may file a protest up to 48 hours after the closing of the polls. Mr. Porter came to the Election Office, the following day and stated his concerns regarding the Election.  The Staff heard his concerns and addressed his questions,” Ms. Shoemaker said. The staff explained that Candidates could file a protest of the results of the Election if they choose to do so. “We explained the process and Mr. Porter decided to proceed with the protest.” Shoemaker stated that she also explained the process of the Hearing to Mr. Porter and made the arrangements for the Hearing.  Ms. Shoemaker explained to the Lexington Ledger that “on the night of the Election, one results tape is displayed outside the polling location.  A duplicate tape is returned to the Election office and is kept with the Election results”.  She explained that “the morning after the Election, the logistic Team picked up the Election equipment.  The Ballot Marking devices and other Election equipment is kept in a secure room where the voting equipment is secured with limited access to only the Election Staff”.  Ms. Shoemaker went on to say that “these same machines were placed on display during the hearing.  They were opened to reveal that the original seals were intact and that they had not been broken or tampered with”. 

 

The Equipment Manager Claritza Roche, and the Logistic Coordinator, Matthew McGinnis, supplied Ballots and inserted them into the machines.  They explained how the machines worked and revealed that each machine did indeed have Mr. Bobby Porter’s name listed as a Candidate on the machines.  The machines stated to “Vote for (1)” for Mayor and “Vote for (2)” candidates for Council.  In addition, the ballots had (2) “write in” features allowing a voter to ‘write in’ a Candidate if they wished.   If the Election totals are within 1% margin, a recount would be ordered.  The margin of the Election results did not constitute a recount of the election.    

 

In addressing Mr. Porter’s concern about a significant number of voters being turned away because they don’t live in the town, Shoemaker explained that “it is not uncommon when it comes to “Municipal Elections”.  “I received one of these calls from the Clerk, who were possibly one of the 11 Voters who were not found in the Election.  My research showed that voter did not live within the town limits.  They lived near the border of the Town Boundary.”

 

“The Town of South Congaree General Election was a “Municipal General Election”. That is to say that, “Only the Voters that live In-Town can Vote in these Elections”.  Voters can be confused as the polls are “Open” but the Election is not for “everyone”. With the recent redistricting, we can see how other types of confusion can also occur in Elections, but for very different reasons.  When there are splits in Districts, like those in large communities, similar to West Columbia, or border communities like Batesburg-Leesville that shares a border with Saluda County and even Irmo that shares a border with Richland County, we can see that Voters may be confused on their ballot styles. I can send as many as 80 letters a day to people moving in and out of Lexington County. We are mailing a new voter registration card to those voters that have been affected by redistricting so they will have the correct district and Precinct Information printed on the card,” Ms. Shoemaker explained.

 

She went on to explain that if a home or property is split by city or town boundaries, or with some other county or political area or district, the Title Seven and Mapping laws help to clarify ‘who your electors are’ and what elections the residents are eligible to cast their ballot in. Those same lines can come down to figuring out ‘where you lay your head’ to decide the correct districts and precincts.

 

Ms. Shoemaker comes across as a dedicated County employee who is intent on tending to the smallest details of her job. “My office strives to ensure every eligible Voter is given the opportunity to vote.  We are constantly striving for accuracy in all that we do.”

 

You can find out a great deal more about Lexington County voting by referencing the Lexington County Voter Registration and Election Commission’s webpage by clicking on this link.



On that page, there is a link to help you locate your correct polling place. That can easily be found by looking at the bottom of your voter registration card. There you will find your correct precinct, then press the words below to see the address of that precinct.



Here are some other helpful links to items found on that website:



To contact the Lexington County Voter Registration and Election Commission, you can call them at (803) 785-8369.



 

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