South Carolina’s state elections director Marci Andino will resign at the year’s end, according to a resignation letter Andino sent to the State Election Commission board that was provided to The State.
The resignation is effective Dec. 31, according to the letter, dated May 12.
Chris Whitmire, spokesman with the State Elections Commission, confirmed the letter.
The news comes months after Andino knocked heads with Republican leaders frustrated over her role in encouraging them to adopt COVID-19 voter safety measures ahead of the November 2020 election.
And it comes at a time when the Republican-controlled Legislature is weighing changes to how voters cast ballots and while senators are holding hearings reviewing the State Election Commission’s charge overseeing state and local elections.
A State Election Commission representative was not immediately available for comment.
Andino, who has run the elections agency since 2003, her LinkedIn said, earned $114,933 a year — one of 26 agency heads to get a pay raise in the past year.
Andino was not a Cabinet official under Gov. Henry McMaster’s administration. However, the governor appoints the five-member State Elections Commission board to four-year terms, and the board oversees the director.
State lawmakers had lauded Andino for her nearly two decades of work over the State Elections Commission, a position responsible for overseeing elections for federal, state and local races that often put her at odds with county offices.
Under her leadership, the State Election Commission made significant advancements that included switching to a paper-based voting system providing voters and election officials with a paper audit.
Andino came under fire in 2018, after McClatchy and The State reported that she was among a group of election officials paid to attend meetings as part of company Election Systems & Software’s national advisory board. Andino had received payments from ES&S, which is the state’s vendor for voting machines and software, since 2009, but said she was not involved in the agency’s decision to pick ES&S as a vendor.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and a letter Andino sent to lawmakers last year requesting stricter health measures, frustrated Republican leaders after the Legislature went to court to defend a voting measure that Andino asked to be removed.
In that July 2020 letter, Andino asked Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, and House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, to consider again expanding absentee, early voting to all South Carolinians and, in particular, remove the witness signature requirement on absentee ballots.
That latter request was challenged in court, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the witness signature requirement in October.
The high court’s unanimous decision overruled an order a month earlier, when U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, persuaded by the pandemic, ruled the State Election Commission was prohibited from enforcing the state law requiring a witness signature.
“Yes, there were lawsuits in 2020,” Chris Whitmire, State Election Commission spokesman, told The State in February. “But the stakes are high in elections, and for better or worse, lawsuits have become part of the process. In fact, there have been lawsuits in every election cycle in the past 10 years.”
But in the months since that letter and the November 2020 elections, Republican leaders have made it clear through legislation, and some have said repeatedly, they want change at the State Election Commission.
House and Senate lawmakers have both filed and passed legislation to give the chambers more power over the State Election Commission board. But while both bills have passed their respective chambers, neither has passed the other with two more days left on this year’s legislative work calendar.
Andino steps down weeks into Senate oversight panel hearings into the State Elections Commission.
Senators have praised Andino for leading the agency through a pandemic when it dealt with a shortage of poll workers, precinct consolidations and a virus outbreak in the middle of an unprecedented presidential election year.
“I think they did an incredible job under the most difficult circumstances probably any of us could have ever imagined,” Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, told Andino at a March hearing, the Associated Press reported.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.