FLORENCE, S.C. – The papers of rules governing the Florence County Voter Registrations and Elections Commission lay on the table just inside the executive session room at the Voter Registration office on Third Loop Road.
Commission Executive Director David Alford pointed to them: a not-for-the-public document that appears to be from the state election commission, a copy of a law passed in 2014, and a copy of PowerPoint presentation made by Marci Andrino, the state election commission executive director; Howard Snider, the state director of voter services; and Chris Whitmire, the state director of public information and training.
A slide on the PowerPoint outlines some of the other governing items. They include the state and federal constitutions, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Acts regulations, court rulings, South Carolina Code and opinions of the state attorney general.
How are the commissioners appointed?
The PowerPoint presentation outlines how the commission members are appointed by the governor upon recommendation of the county legislative delegation to four-year terms. The commission can consist of five, seven or nine members.
Alford said Florence County has seven members on its commission.
The commission elects a chairman for a two-year term. The chairman is supposed to lead meetings, call meetings, ensure review of the director’s performance and serve as the director’s primary point of contact.
Commissioners must attend monthly meetings. If a member misses three consecutive meetings — members can “attend” via phone — the chairman or his designee must notify the governor. The governor is then obligated to remove the offending commissioner.
Commissioners receive a stipend that is set by the state budget.
They also are required to attend a training and certification program within 18 months of their appointment to the commission.
What are the duties of the commission?
The PowerPoint presentation outlines a number of duties, including determining whether applicants meet the qualifications to vote, the conducting of filing for an election, ensuring the office serves as an absentee precinct, maintenance of voter registration records, determining polling place locations, recruiting and training poll managers, storage and maintenance of the voting system, the conducting of elections, the certification of elections and the holding of protest hearings regarding provisional ballots.
Commissioners, the director, and staff members are also limited in their political activities. They cannot participate in political management for a candidate in an election they have jurisdiction over, cannot serve as a poll watcher, cannot publicly endorse a candidate and cannot attend party meetings.
The PowerPoint presentation notes that directors and staff members are held to a higher standard.
How are precincts determined?
Precincts are geographical areas selected to vote at a specific location called a polling place. They are determined by act of the General Assembly. The commission can determine a polling place but does have to receive approval of the legislative delegation.
In selecting a polling place, the commission looks at location, size of the space, parking, accessibility, long-term continuity and the lack of a political atmosphere.
Each precinct must receive one voting machine for every 250 registered voters as near as practical. In determining how many voting machines are at a polling place, the commission considers the number of machines available, current absentee voting data, areas with high growth, absentee voting rates by precinct and turnout in previous elections.
Alford has advocated at county council meetings for a precinct split in West Florence, but no action has been taken on the matter.