Originally created 09/14/99

County to refuse request



AIKEN -- No one actively involved in getting out the vote for the November video poker referendum should be allowed to work as a poll manager during the election, says James Hendrix, executive director of the South Carolina Election Commission.

"The decision to appoint or not appoint is yours," Mr. Hendrix wrote in a letter to all county election commissions, dated July 16. "I would, however, recommend that you not appoint anyone who is employed by the gaming industry or subsidiary business and any person who is actively involved in the campaign, pro or con. If you have to ask, ask."

But the Aiken County Registration and Election Commission members say they will neither ask poll managers how they stand on the video poker referendum nor will they follow Mr. Hendrix's recommendation to bar active campaigners, either pro or con, from working in the election.

Complying with Mr. Hendrix's request would establish a precedent of inquiring into the political preferences of all poll workers, says June Cannon, former chairwoman of the Aiken County Republican Party and a poll manager for more than a decade. Mrs. Cannon has been active in the campaign against video poker locally.

"I don't see any difference in this and somebody working for a specific candidate," she said. Besides, she noted, following Mr. Hendrix's recommendation would cost the county about one-third of the present poll managers.

"Where do you draw the line and how would you finally determine who to use in November?" local Commissioner David Nix asked.

In a unanimous vote, the local election commission voted not to comply with Mr. Hendrix's request to bar known activists from working as poll managers. Instead, the commission voted to provide special instruction for the more than 300 poll workers expected to cover the November elections in Aiken County.

"We don't ask them how they are going to vote in any election. The only thing that we require is that they follow the law," said local commission Chairman Ben Christensen.

No signs either for or against video gambling may be allowed within 200 feet of polling places, and poll workers must remove pro or con bumper stickers from their vehicles parked within 200 feet of the building where voting takes place. They also may not express their preferences to anyone who comes within the polling area.

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895 or cbureau@augustachronicle.com.