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“OLD GUARD” ROCKED BY REVIVAL OF VOTING SCANDAL

By Mia McLeod || Didn’t I?

And I’m not one to gloat because there are no winners in this deal.  But just in case you missed it, press “rewind” and tune into the hour-long press conference that (fired) Richland County Elections Director Howard Jackson held on Tuesday. He dropped a weapon of mass destruction on the Old Guard (“OG”) that was so explosive, only the skeletal remains of what was, are left in this on-going saga that continues to wreak havoc on the integrity of the County’s electoral process and Richland County voters.

Nothing but a scandal like this could “rock” the OG and send them scattering. Why? Turns out that Mr. Jackson, unbeknownst to most of us, was an imposter. He actually wasn’t one of them, although they obviously thought he was. Honestly, so did I.

Funny how one can be so right and yet so wrong.

You’ve gotta give it to him. He played the part beautifully. In fact, the OG wanted him in the new #1 spot like they wanted to keep former director Lillian McBride in the old #1 spot. Why wouldn’t they? Takes a lotta dirty dealing to get everything “rigged” just right. And his hiring was the final, but essential piece of the puzzle—one that would seal the deal for Ms. McBride’s long-term future at Richland County Elections. On that point, the OG has never wavered.

And while I’m not a psychic, I did predict that the OG’s corrupt behavior would one day be revealed and that sadly, more voters would be denied their fundamental right in the process. So here we are, not even a year after he was hired, and Mr. Jackson has alleged what many of us suspected was happening all along. We just couldn’t prove it. But hopefully, he can.

Hiring someone who is obviously competent and capable of doing his job and then micro-managing him to the point where he’s precluded from doing it is one thing. Ratifying and vetoing his decisions and asking him to do illegal, unethical deeds to keep Commissioners in the legislative delegation’s good graces to the detriment of Richland County voters, is another.

From allegedly rescinding a valid, legal offer of employment based solely on a candidate’s race to tampering with votes, obstructing elections and every illegal, unethical, unconscionable allegation in between…this hot mess, if substantiated, would even make the writers of “Scandal” blush.

Let’s see…

Conspiracy
Collusion
Corruption

While the checklist continues to grow, I just wanna thank you, Howard Jackson, for confirming our suspicions in a way that only someone in your position could. If some or all of your allegations prove true, you’ve dealt a mighty blow to the OG…one from which they may not recover.

Obviously, Richland County is and will be forever changed…hopefully this time, for the better. And although I was reminded yesterday as I prepared to talk to the media, that “this is no longer our (Legislative Delegation’s) baby,” I disagree. Any mother who has given birth knows…once “our baby,” always “our baby.”

But a “rebirth” is certainly in order. We’ve got a real opportunity to get this right. Tearing down this God-forsaken sham of a County Elections Commission and starting over is a must because at this point, no investigation alone…state or federal…is likely to restore voter confidence in the County’s electoral process.

That’s why a bill that Reps. James Smith, Beth Bernstein and I sponsored is so timely. It would allow the State Elections Commission to supervise and step in (if necessary) to take over any election in any county where there are allegations of misconduct, illegal and unethical behavior or incompetence.

But alas, the OG seems to have one final card in its dwindling deck. Apparently, a current board member who was appointed last year by the OG in a last-minute “weighted voting” maneuver, has agreed to step down from the Board and serve as Interim Director of this chaos. Amidst an impending investigation and constitutional questions surrounding the Board’s very existence, I can only ask Mr. Selph and his OG Elections colleagues, “Why?”

Where does it end?

How long must Richland County Elections be the laughing stock of the entire state? Aren’t we tired of playing this same old tune? Haven’t they berated, degraded and emasculated voters enough? For once, can’t they show the people of Richland County some semblance of consideration and decency?

Like most of you, I’m ready to change the channel on this station. But, Mr. Jackson is starting to “sing,” and it just happens to be one of my favorite tunes.

Let’s just hope the OG will be GONE when this record finally stops playing…

mia mcleod

Mia McLeod represents Richland County in the South Carolina House of Representatives.