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Protest, complaint filed over board race and poll workers' conduct
By Kelly Marshall for The Sun News 10 November 2004

GEORGETOWN - Two people have filed protests or complaints with the Georgetown County Elections Commission and another person says he plans to file a protest by today.

Bobby Johnson, candidate for the Board of Education, filed a protest Tuesday about missing ballots from the local election.

Ruthann Howard, who ran for auditor, filed a complaint Friday with Georgetown County Election Commission Chairman Herb Bailey.

Paul Hogan, Republican chairman for Georgetown County, plans to file another protest of the election results by today.

Johnson and Hogan are upset that a second recount of the election results, scheduled for Monday, was cancelled by Bailey.

Although all votes were recounted, only the results of the school board race were in question.

The first recount was required after it was determined that Johnson or incumbent board candidate John Spears could have won the final seat on the board, instead of Bob Jewell. Four seats were open on the eight-member board.

Sarah Elliott, the top vote getter, received 12,594 votes, according to Thursday's certified results. Lynn Freeman received 11,447 and Johnny Wilson collected 11,200. Jewell received 10,860 votes.

Johnson received 10,835 and Spears received 10,669. Both Johnson and Spears were within 1 percent of winning a final seat on the board, which prompted a recount.

After Friday's recount, the number of total votes cast in the election changed from 25,848 to 25,784.

"Everybody's numbers went down," Johnson said, "including the school board."

Bailey then called for a second recount, but the S.C. Election Commission advised against it, he said.

"The S.C. Election Commission said we had satisfied the rules," Bailey said. "They advised us not to do it. Sixty-four ballots didn't show up, but I can't explain it. I know we counted every vote."

S.C. law makes a provision for one recount, said Garry Baum, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission.

Candidates can protest after the votes are certified, he said.

Election protests will be heard by the commission Monday, Bailey said.

If the results of the school board race change, it could sway its racial and political makeup, Hogan said. A majority of Republicans, all white, were elected to four seats.

About 40 percent of Georgetown County's residents are black, according to the 2000 census. About 52 percent of the district's students are black, and about 20 percent of school administrators and teachers are black, according to the school district.

Ruthann Howard filed protests with the election commission about the conduct of poll workers and the late arrival of election results from Andrews.

Howard's complaints involve the number of poll workers assisting voters at the booths and allegations that some voters were told how to cast their ballot. S.C. law says two poll workers must be with the voter if they need assistance, she said.

At some precincts, only one poll worker went with a voter to the voting booth, she said.

Georgetown County is not the only county to have potential problems with the election results, according to the S.C. Election Commission.

In Horry County, former House Seat 106 candidate Dick Withington already has notified the commission that he plans to file a protest about voting machines and other problems with voting in his district.

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