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Counting error overstates votes

GOP candidate for Kershaw County Council finds out he lost to competitor

By KRISTY EPPLEY RUPON     The State   29 April 2005

Human error is being blamed for a mistake that overturned results from Tuesday?s Republican primary in a special election for Kershaw County Council.

Unofficial vote totals that night showed 3,208 of District 2?s 5,128 registered voters had cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic primaries. A manual recount Thursday proved only 768 votes were cast.

The new numbers mean Republican Tony Mike Davis ? who went home Tuesday believing he won the primary ? was defeated by Ned Towell by seven votes. Sammie Tucker Jr. remains the Democratic primary winner, defeating Kenneth Carter by 49 votes.

?I don?t know what to say,? Davis said Thursday, adding he has not ruled out challenging the results. Garry Baum, public information director for the State Election Commission, blamed the numbers in Tuesday?s election on ?a human accounting error.?

A new electronic voting system being used in 15 counties in South Carolina calls for a cartridge from each precinct to be plugged into a computer to count the votes.

?When the cartridges were being read they were mistakenly read ... again,? Baum said. ?And so you had what looked like additional numbers.?

Tuesday night, a commission employee did not check a box on the computer screen that would have prevented multiple readings, Baum said. He said such an error has not occurred before and the commission is working with staff to ?reinforce training.?

County officials asked for help from the State Election Commission for this special election because the county commission recently lost three veteran members.

Towell said he knew there was a problem Tuesday when he began comparing his numbers to the election commission?s figures.

?I?m happy to see that ... we?ve worked the kinks out,? he said. ?I?ve learned a hard lesson in politics in my first run.?

Vote totals certified Thursday by the Kershaw County Election Commission show Towell winning with 51 percent of the vote, or 126 votes to 119. Tucker won with 56 percent of the vote, or 291 votes to 232.

The special election is June 14.

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