How’s the election going out there, folks?


Steve Benjamin sent out the above image a little after 1 p.m. I’m just seeing it now, when there are… let’s see… less than four hours left.

So — how’s it going out there, particularly in Columbia and Richland County? Better than last time around?

Let’s hope so…

40 thoughts on “How’s the election going out there, folks?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I asked this question earlier on Twitter and Facebook. Here are three replies from Facebook:
    Terry Davis Easy as pie, but there are hardly ever any voters at my polling place. At 11:00 I was the 39th voter.
    Stanley Dubinsky Easy. Of course, given that our voting machines have proprietary software that is not subject to external checks, I can only hope that my vote will actually count.
    Phillip Bush there was only one person ahead (or behind me for that matter) this AM at MLK Park, but it took surprisingly long for official to enter my info (checking photo ID etc) into a laptop they had. Had there been any crowd at all, would have been unbelievably slow.

  2. Doug Ross

    In news that will surprise no one, The State endorsed all the incumbents. Things must be running on all cylinders in Columbia.

    1. Doug Ross

      Here’s a bit from the glowing endorsement of candidate Sam Davis:

      “During his lengthy tenure on the council, Mr. Davis has done little to distinguish himself outside of his district. When he has stood out, he has too often been on the wrong side of issues”.

      Seems like the other guy would have to be pretty awful to be rejected on the endorsement. But, no,

      “Mr. Trezevant also talks a lot about the need to spend more time and money on programs to keep young people out of trouble. Since 2006, he has headed a community organization called Project Unity USA, which seeks to help law enforcement understand black and high-crime areas and get those areas more familiar with police and what they do. That is a worthy pursuit, but ultimately, Mr. Trezevant provides little reason for voters to remove an incumbent.”

      Seems like Mr. Trezevant at least has some ideas.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, for the 10,000th time (probably): A newspaper endorses based on who is actually running. An endorsement does not say, “This person is doing a perfect job.” It’s based on a comparison between the actual candidates, not between the incumbent and an abstract idea.

      This is particularly obvious when you read some of these endorsements. There was a thread running through the ones I saw in this cycle: We’re disappointed with this person, but the challenger does not persuade us that he would do better. Here are some specific ways in which we want to see improvement from the incumbent.

      I don’t know all the candidates in all of those races. But in the ones in which I do know them, I don’t see anything else The State could have done.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      For example, from today’s recap of the endorsements:

      Given first-term Councilwoman Leona Plaugh’s wealth of knowledge about how the capital city’s government operates, it has been disappointing that she hasn’t been more of a problem solver. While her opponent suggests he would be more oriented toward finding solutions than simply voting “no,” he doesn’t make a strong enough case to replace the incumbent. Voters should re-elect Ms. Plaugh, a former city manager, with the expectation that she will use her experience to have a meaningful impact on the policies, projects and planning that will shape Columbia’s future.

  3. Doug Ross

    See my reply above. They didn’t make any case as to why the challenger was any worse than the incumbent.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, let me tell you how these things sometimes go (and no, I don’t know whether that was the case in any of these races):

      You have an incumbent who you think could be doing a way better job. You may hope against hope that a viable challenger emerges, but it doesn’t happen.

      When the challenger comes in to interview, you feel embarrassed for him or her. The person may be very earnest and sincere, and your heart goes out to him, because you know he means well. She lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of the issues. He knows nothing about the powers of the office and its limitations. She has wildly, objectively inaccurate notions about what is happening. His ideas for fixing things fit in the realm of “magical thinking.” She is so sadly inarticulate, you want to help her through the interview.

      There is little chance this person will be elected, and you know it.

      So… you spend the few words you have discussing the person who will ACTUALLY hold the office — or the couple of candidates who have a chance. This is where you might get that person’s attention, and prompt some change. You don’t waste words crushing the person who doesn’t have a chance. You say something like, “The challenger failed to provide any convincing arguments that he would do a better job on these issues…”

      Now… in a case in which the challenger has a chance, and you still believe he or she is the wrong person, you have to get specific. You have to say, this person says so-and-so, and here’s what’s wrong with that position.

      But if you don’t think it’s necessary to making the points you want to make, you don’t have to do that…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You might say that the number of words devoted to the candidate who is NOT being endorsed can be (although is not always) an indicator of the board’s assessment of his or her chances. The more likely that person is to be elected, in the editorial writer’s estimation, the more words will be devoted to why that person isn’t as good a choice as the other.

        I’m talking nonincumbents here. If the person you’re not endorsing is the incumbent, you’re going to spend quite a few words on that person either way. The case for a change has to be made, and you will have a lot of relevant material to go over with an incumbent. There’s less to say about a person who just decided to run for office, and has no public record to examine.

        1. Doug Ross

          I wonder if The State endorsed Mr. Davis when he ran for the first time? If not, why not? If so, what characteristics would have made him a good choice then? And has The State ever endorsed his opponent in 15 years?

          Would it make a difference in the outcome of the election if The State simply said “Neither candidate deserves to serve. Make your own informed choice.” ? Not at all. They could have written the exact same editorial and then said “Nope”.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I don’t remember the last time he had opposition. And we only endorsed in races with opposition.

            That was a drawback for me as EPE. I didn’t get to know politicos like that as well as I did the ones who regularly had opposition. I got to know the latter ones well from having been through the discernment process of trying to assess their performance.

            And while my situation was extreme, I think the same goes for a large part of the electorate. They don’t get to know (as well) the ones who don’t have to RUN to get re-elected…

      2. Doug Ross

        And do you realize how elitist it sounds to say that you can judge a person in, what, 30 minutes and know for sure he’s worse than the guy who you know by his track record has been below average for 15 years?

        You act like coming up to speed on the job is impossible. It’s not. Every member of the council was in the same boat at some point. Give me a reasonably intelligent ethical person every day of the week over a career politician with a track record of little value.

        1. Mark Stewart

          I know where people shake out within 5 minutes when interviewing them. I bet you do, too.

          It’s no different with running for office; it doesn’t take much to evaluate a candidate’s potential. But it does take something more than sound bites and lawn signs.

          1. bud

            Disagree. I used to interview people for jobs working for me. There was zero correlation between how well they did in the interview and how well they turned out on the job. After a while I just did interviews because it was part of the process. But I chose based on what the candidates showed me on paper (grades, prior jobs).

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Doug, believe it or not, as seldom as you and I agree on anything, I’ve been in plenty of candidate meetings in which I am confident that you would know in five minutes that the person was utterly not ready for prime time.

          It’s not like watching TV and deciding between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. We’re talking painfully obvious.

          Again, I have no idea whether there were any candidates like that in this election. But I was explaining to you one good reason why you will frequently find little said about the person who is not endorsed…

        3. barry

          I’d argue that Doug would know within 5 minutes if a challenger was a good candidate if they spent their 5 mins talking about solving a problem in which the problem they were trying to solve was not something that was within the scope of their job in any way.

          1. Doug Ross

            Look at the people currently doing the job. What special skills do they have? It’s not like your trying to fill the position for brain surgeon or nuclear engineer. You want someone who is ethical, reasonably intelligent, persuasive, a people person. It’s not a hard job… they just tend to make it harder than it has to be.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, Doug, take the example of the Leona Plaugh race. She has special skills — she was a good, skilled city manager, a person who understood how city government worked on the ground level. She got in trouble and lost the job over political disagreements with her far-too-many bosses.

            But of everyone running Columbia council elections, she has the most meaningful and relevant experience, easily.

          3. Kathryn Fenner

            Leona got in trouble, nominally anyway, over a memo applying Harvard b-school concepts, allegedly, to staffers, referring to some, for ex. as alligators….

            She is a good government person. I hope she wins.

          4. Doug Ross

            Are we talking about the same Leona who apparently cannot get anything done on the council except support the winning side on issues she opposes?

          5. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yeah, Doug, that one. The editorial board expects more from her, because she DOES know the ropes. And they said so.

            And Kathryn, yeah, that’s what I meant by “political disagreements.” I didn’t want to do all the typing I would have to do to tell the “alligators” story.

            Leona had my sympathy on that. She was trying to manage her many bosses, and keep them from interfering at the administrative level. I found her predicament to be a good example of why we need strong mayor. There she was, a competent administrator, trying to deal with the fact that she had seven bosses, and they were all the time slipping around her.

            She’d have been far better off answering to a strong mayor. It’s easier to keep your eye on one boss…

  4. Norm Ivey

    When I voted at about 5PM, there was 1 person in front of me, 2 behind me (one being my bride), 5 poll workers and about 10 machines. We didn’t have 10 operating machines last year for the big election. I was voter 162 in my precinct. Really, really light, but in the county, the only ballot item is the library bond.

  5. Silence

    Showed up to vote about 5:20, it took about 45 minutes to vote. The bottleneck was the single laptop, there were about 5 voting booths sitting vacant. Since it took so long to check folks in, they could have done just as well with only one booth. We need to throw out the entire county elections office.

  6. Brad Warthen

    The news coverage I’m seeing of this election I’m seeing of this election is fragmented, confused, incomplete and sometimes dead wrong. I’m pretty sure WACH just reported the Richland Library referendum backwards, saying it lost big, when apparently it won in a landslide (if other sources are to be believed).

    I’m not seeing a clear picture — or even a serious attempt at providing a clear picture — at other local sites. Speaking as a guy who has run coverage of quite a few elections, what I’m seeing is pathetic, and inexcusable in spite of reduced newsroom resources…

    1. Mark Stewart

      But which side is the problem? The news reporters, or the government commissions?

      Both, most likely.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    I voted, shortly before noon at the Senior Center, where there were maybe five machines. I was number 92. It took five minutes, tops.

        1. Silence

          I was just thinking that it was interesting that these guys plead the day after the election, is all.

          1. Mark Stewart

            I think that is fairly typical with the Feds. In every even remotely controversial decision or announcement they go radio silent 45-90 days before elections.

            It isn’t like these guys were indicted the day after the election. We all know that this is a major scandal. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this racket lead by Pinson was able to exist because of widespread payoffs to political and regulatory individuals. This is a story of the corrosiveness of corruption. There is far too much of it in SC, far more than people seem to realize.

            In the Midlands, it exists on both sides of the river.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      No, and I expect that the results of the investigation clearing Ruben Santiago will be released at a similarly politically advantageous time….

      The message is being exceptionally well handled….

      1. Silence

        Agreed, Kathryn. A few more things I thought were interesting:

        1) The additional charges filed against Pinson, some involving the “Village at River’s Edge”. His partner in the “Village” project was Mayor B. If memory serves correctly, the Mayor’s father-in-law also had some association with the project, perhaps through his position on the Columbia Housing Authority or a nonprofit?

        2) The new “test” procedure of dropping released inmates at CPDHQ instead of at the Laurel St. Transit Center. Downtown residents have long complained about the action at the transit center, interesting that this comes out shortly after the election.

        3) Sheriff Lott raided 5-points last Saturday night without first notifying city officials- specifically because notifying the city would have resulted in his plans being leaked. This was not reported until Wednesday, the day after the election.

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