Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Way to go, Greenville!

I had thought I would have to travel to NC or Florida to see some real election-day excitement, but no no no, we have it in South Carolina, too.

Yesterday's Greenville News headline: "Voters may be put off by precinct changes." The article begins,

Michelle Burton said candidates get one crack at her vote when she heads to the polls two weeks from today.

The Mauldin woman said that if she gets directed to a new polling place she'll not bother to vote. "If I had to travel to another place and I already came all the way there, I would just say forget it," she said.

The specter of more voters like Burton bailing out or not bothering to show up at all has some party officials and legislators questioning the wisdom of uncorking a plan that moves the polling place for roughly half of the county's 216,000 registered voters just two weeks before the election.

As yet, no Greenville County voter has been told where they'll need to go on Nov. 2 to cast their ballot. Voter registration cards showing the new poll information are expected to be mailed in the next few days.

Now let me see: why would anyone have thought such a disruption would be a good idea so close to the election? Oh yeah! To discourage people from voting!

But wait--there's more:

State Sen. David Thomas [(R)] said he was surprised to learn the number of people affected by the precinct changes. He said he didn't remember it being explained that way to the legislative delegation when the Greenville County Election Commission sought its approval in January.

Well, that's convenient: maybe it pays to read legislation after all and understand it completely before you vote for it. And I guess W. isn't the only Republican dedicated to dodging responsibility.

One more part from this article:

Mailing of the new registration cards was delayed at least a week when a data error in a division of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board resulted in roughly 84,000 cards getting misprinted. [Greenville County Election Commission Director Conway] Belangia said he and his staff caught the errors when they noticed 40,000 voters in the county directed to the Timberlake precinct's polls at St. Francis Episcopal on Edwards Road in Greenville.

He said the State Election Commission had originally planned to mail the new cards directly from Columbia.

"Boy, am I glad I didn't let them do that," Belangia said.

Boy, us too! After all, what is the chance that of that 40,000 there might be, say, 30% who have the same view as the Michelle Burton from the beginning of the article? That would mean 12,000 voters giving up! And probably the number would be higher than that.

But lest you thought the story stopped there, I gift you with today's front page article, "Voter cards in mail soon":

Greenville County election officials raced Tuesday to get new voter cards to the post office by Friday and into the hands of 216,000 voters who have yet to be notified where to cast their ballot Nov. 2.

A private company is stuffing and sorting more than 200,000 envelopes, and Election Commission Director Conway Belangia said his hope is that voters will receive the cards by Monday or Tuesday.

"Keep in mind that's at least a week later than we planned on," he said."

Good planning! What happened to contingency plans? Leaving, say, EXTRA time? Not waiting to the last minute?


The NAACP is on the problem, recognizing who it is who is usually disenfranchised by such things. Greenville's NAACP leader Paul Guy recommends that any voter who is confused by the new precincts cast absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, I'll be in Greenville County with my car, cellphone, and laptop, trying to do what little I can to make sure everyone who wants to vote, and is entitled to do so, can.

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