Lawsuit, D.C. PAC seek different solutions on Democratic primary

June 14, 2012 

Conway attorney Morgan Martin has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two clients that maintains a runoff election must be held June 26 between Democratic 7th District congressional primary candidates Gloria Tinubu and Preston Brittain, his office confirmed late Thursday afternoon.

The board of the S.C. State Election Commission, which declared Tinubu the winner in its accounting of Tuesday’s vote, will rule Friday afternoon on whether or not it will hold a runoff in the race without a judge’s order to do so, which the lawsuit seeks..

Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Campaign Fund issued a statement Thursday expressing its disappointment with Harpootlian’s statements about the primary count. The Fund maintains Tinubu’s victory should stand, the statement said.

The Women’s Campaign Fund is a nonpartisan, political action committee dedicated to seeing that women who support abortion rights get elected to office, according to its website.

The Election Commission has asked for advice from the S.C. Attorney General’s office, Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said Thursday morning, and the board will consider that when certifying the vote and making its decision on the runoff. Whitmire said the Commission is also getting a count of the number of votes cast for Vick from election offices of the eight counties in the 7th District.

The Commission only tabulated votes for four candidates -- Gloria Tinubu, Preston Brittain, Parnell Diggs and Harry Pavilack -- to determine its version of the outcome.

Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said Wednesday he believes that state law requires a runoff because the vote total used to determine that Tinubu of Georgetown won Tuesday’s primary did not include 2,300 votes he said were cast for state Rep. Ted Vick, which is also the basis for Morgan’s lawsuit.

Vick withdrew from the race a couple of weeks before the vote but his name remained on the ballot.

Had votes for Vick been added to the total vote, Harpootlian said, Tinubu would not have gotten a majority of the votes and a runoff between her and Brittain, a Myrtle Beach attorney, would be necessary.

Whitmire said it has been the Commission’s position that votes cast for withdrawn candidates whose names are still on a ballot are not part of the vote total used to determine a winner.

He said that state law requires only that votes for candidates be counted, and that the Commission feels a withdrawn candidate is no longer a candidate on the day of an election.

Amanda Lovejoy, executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party, said party officials had decided by Thursday morning that the party wouldn’t file a lawsuit to force a runoff should the Election Commission stand by its Tuesday count.

She said the party’s concern was to state that some primary voters might have been disenfranchised by the Commission’s count.

On the other side of the issue, the Women’s Campaign Fund said in its statement, “(The S.C. Democratic Party’s) demands that the Election Commission count the votes for a disqualified candidate amount to nothing more than the childish demands for a ‘do-over’.”

Vick was not disqualified. He voluntarily withdrew after he had been arrested in Columbia for driving under the influence.

Whitmire said there was not time in the two weeks between Vick’s withdrawal and the primary to remove his name from ballots and get new ones to county election offices. He said that process would take about a month.

He said he’s fairly sure that a withdrawn candidate’s name has remained on some ballot before in South Carolina, but he doesn’t know specifically when. He said it would be arduous to search through records of all South Carolina elections to find it.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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