Three protests filed in county elections
Chronicle Independent; by Jim Tatum; 20 November 2006
Three notices of protest have been filed contesting the results for County Council District 6 and the Lugoff Fire District.
Kevin Wilburn, who ran for a seat on the Lugoff Fire District Commission, filed a notice of protest with the Kershaw County Election Commission late the week of Nov. 10. Jerry Horton, who ran as a Republican candidate for Kershaw County Council District 6, filed his notice of protest Nov. 14; Democrat Gary Elliott, who won the initial returns, filed his own protest just before the noon deadline Nov. 15.
The commission certified the results of the Nov. 7 election Nov. 10.
"People should understand ... that only a candidate may file a protest in an election," said Kershaw County Election Commission Chair Vivian Metze.
Wilburn, a candidate for Lugoff Fire District Commissioner, has based his protest on the grounds that electronic voting machines used in the Lugoff 1, 2, and 3 precincts were incorrectly programmed to solicit and accept two votes out of three candidates when there was only one seat up for election, according to the notice of protest Wilburn filed with the county election commission.
According to Wilburn's notice, "This programming error was known to the employees of the Kershaw County Voter Registration Office before the election and an effort was made to correct the same by placing a sign in the voting booth instructing people to vote only for one candidate. However, your candidate (WIlburn) believes that numerous people actually cast votes for more than one candidate in Lugoff precincts 1, 2, (and) 3 in spite of the signs. The voting machines were also programmed not to initially accept the vote for only one candidate and to re-prompt each voter to vote for two candidates. Additionally, verbal instructions by the poll workers were to be given to every voter reminding them to only vote for one candidate for fire commissioner; however, not every voter was reminded at the polling place to only vote for one candidate. More votes were cast for fire commissioner in Lugoff Precincts 1, 2, (and) 3 than (the number of) individual people voted."
In the District 6 County Council election, official results show Democrat Gary Elliott won the race over Horton by 18 votes, 1,701 to 1,683; Elliott declared victory Nov. 8.
But Horton and Kershaw County Republican Party Chairman James D'Allessio said they believe Elliott's announcement was premature.
The problem comes from confusion in one precinct, Shaylor's Hill, D'Allessio said last week. Elliott scored 282 votes over Horton's 114 in Shaylor's Hill, giving him the narrow 18-vote lead. Those numbers represent 396 votes cast in a precinct of which only a very tiny portion lies in District 6. Most of Shaylor's Hill is actually based in District 2, held by Councilman John Lee.
"If you look at the numbers from the last election, only 48 people in the Shaylor's Hill precinct were eligible to vote in District 6 and only 18 of them voted," D'Allessio said.
If all the votes from Shaylor's Hill were disallowed, the outcome would change, leaving Horton in the lead with 1,569 votes over Elliott's 1,419 a difference of 150 votes. Even if there were a 100 percent turnout with all votes for Elliott is assumed, that is still not enough to overturn Horton, D'Allessio said.
Gary Baum, public information director for the S.C. Election Commission, said in countywide elections such as this one, the protest is filed with the county election commission, which reviews it and makes a decision to uphold or reject the protest. If the commission upholds the protest, it will have to hold a new election, Baum said.
"They cannot throw out the votes; they would have to hold another election," he said Thursday.
D'Allessio said last week he disagreed with Baum's assessment and said Horton's protest would request that the numbers from Shaylor's Hill be dismissed, rather than subjecting the taxpayers to the time and expense of yet another election.
Elliott said that after attending the election certification meeting Nov. 10, it became increasingly apparent to him that a number of errors had occurred. The only fair course of action, he said, was to formally protest the inconsistencies and hope to have a new election conducted for District 6.
"Please understand that I am not alleging any intentional acts, but I think we can agree that there were some cases of mass confusion at several of the precincts on Nov. 7, 2006," Elliott said. "We had people who were not supposed to vote who did, people who were supposed to vote who couldn't and at least one husband and wife, living in the same household, who had a situation where one was told they could vote but the other couldn't. Therefore, I am exercising my right to protest these inconsistencies. The way I see it, the only way to be fair about this is to run it again."
Specifically, Elliott's grounds for protest are as follows:
Riverdale According to the district maps, the voter list and the official county voter registration records, there are no registered voters who should have been allowed to vote in the District 6 election. Yet Elliott received two votes and Horton received one vote from this precinct.
Airport In this precinct no registered voters should have voted in District 6, yet Elliott received 19 votes and Horton received 12 votes in this precinct.
White's Garden Only 14 registered voters are listed in this precinct, yet Elliott received 23 votes and Horton received 21 votes.
Shaylor's Hill Only 48 registered voters should have been eligible to vote in the District 6 election from this precinct, yet 396 votes were cast.
Cassatt In this precinct, 722 registered voters were eligible to vote in the District 6 election and 86 registered voters were eligible to vote for in the District 5 election. However, it appears that 100 votes were cast in District 5.
While there were 722 registered voters eligible to vote in the District 6 council race, only 255 voters actually voted, Elliott said; he received 157 and Horton received 98.
Elliott said in looking at the percentages of votes cast in the Cassatt precinct compared to the percentages of votes cast countywide in contested races for both local and state candidates, it appeared that the precinct only voted about 40 percent of its registered voters. In contested races for local and statewide candidates, the average was about 51 percent, he said.
"It is hard to imagine that this particular precinct would vote 10 percent less of its registered voters than every other precinct for both statewide and local candidates," Elliott said.
Metze said all three hearings were scheduled to be held Monday (Nov. 20), starting at about 8:30 a.m., in the order the candidates filed.
In other election news, the votes for S.C. House District 79 has been certified, with incumbent Bill Cotty the winner.