Judge Larry Hyman ordered the South Carolina Election Commission to count all ballots cast for withdrawn Democratic candidate Ted Vick in the 7th Congressional District primary, thereby leading to a runoff election Tuesday between top vote-getters Gloria Tinubu and Preston Brittain.
Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino said the commission would abide by the court’s ruling and not appeal.
The commission’s long-standing policy - in place since 2006 - stating votes for withdrawn candidates are not counted when it comes to determining majority vote in a primary was the focus of Hyman’s ruling. The policy stemmed from state law that said the majority is determined “by dividing the total votes cast for all candidates by two,” and that anything in excess of that sum is a majority.
Without Vick’s 2,341 votes, Tinubu had 52 percent of all votes counted and was declared the winner of the June 12 primary.
Conway attorney Morgan Martin filed a lawsuit and maintained the Election Commission erred by not counting the votes cast for Vick. He and the attorneys for the Election Commission argued their positions during a hearing Thursday at the Georgetown County Courthouse.
“We’re pleased. We think this is a case in which there should have been a runoff election,” Martin said Friday.
In his ruling, Hyman noted that the Election Commission sought clarification on the issue from the S.C. Attorney General as to whether Vick’s votes should be counted.
“The Attorney General opined that the Vick votes should be included in any computation of a majority,” the ruling stated.
Vick withdrew from the race on May 29, two weeks before the primary, following an arrest on drunk driving and weapons charges in Columbia. Election Commission officials said it wasn’t feasible to remove his name from the ballot.
As a result of Hyman’s ruling, the Election Commission met Friday to re-certify the results. Once Vick’s votes were counted, Tinubu wound up with 49 percent of the vote, and Brittain had 37 percent.
“More than 2,300 voters were told their vote does not count in last week’s election, and I applaud the S.C. court for overturning the S.C. Election Commission’s original decision to disenfranchise voters,” Brittain said in a statement..
Tinubu didn’t say for certain she would appeal the ruling, but added that her attorney is looking at all options.
“I am not surprised,” Tinubu said Friday about the ruling. “It was clear that this was a part of the opposition’s strategy. So, I’m not surprised. Not surprised at all. People understand that this is not in keeping with the tradition that had been practiced over the years. And people see the unfairness of this.”
Tinubu scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m. Friday at her Conway campaign headquarters to discuss the ruling, but had not arrived by 5 p.m.
Brittain and Tinubu join 7th District GOP hopefuls Andre Bauer and Tom Rice in runoff elections Tuesday. That latter contest was up in the air because of a temporary restraining order issued by Hyman prohibiting any preparation vote for the Republican runoff.
Hyman lifted the restraining order Thursday, and Election Commission officials began preparing for both the GOP and the Democratic runoff, just in case the judge decided that Vick’s votes should be counted.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.