The 2018 Republican primary began on Tuesday, but the final certification of results would take an additional four days. On Saturday the Horry County board of elections met to re-certify the results and then certify the recount.
These certified vote totals left Johnny Gardner with 12,426 votes and incumbent Mark Lazarus with 12,313 votes, according to the official results. The recounted votes matched the certification.
Once the recount was announced, Lazarus said he had no objections and conceded the race to Gardner.
"I have been honored to serve the people of Horry County for the past five years," he said in his concession speech. "God bless Horry County as it begins a new era of leadership."
Getting to this point wasn't an easy process.
"It's been a grueling five days," said board of election chairman Larry Leagans.
On Tuesday night at the Lazarus election event, officials announced a few voting machines were not accounted for and they may have ballots on them. Either way, the race was close enough to require a recount.
After 200 unaccounted for votes were found Friday morning, certifying the results became a contentious issue as the Lazarus campaign wanted to wait until Monday. That would give them more time to make a decision about protesting the results.
Lazarus said the threat to protest the count was to insure the integrity of the race and make sure every vote counted, not to needlessly delay a decision or prolong the campaign. Johnny Gardner, on his campaign Facebook page agreed.
"My opponent not only has a right, but a responsibility to see to it no stone is left unturned," he said. "Were we in their position, I would have done the same."
Both Lazarus and Gardner thanked the election staff for the hard work. Throughout the whole process, the board of elections and Horry County election staff were required to be on site as votes were counted and reviewed. They were in the office until 2 a.m. Saturday morning, returning for the 8 a.m. meeting on Saturday that finally ended at 4 p.m.
The state audit, re-certification and recount were supposed to be finished on Friday, but computer issues delayed the process. Then the election staff in Columbia went home, requiring the board and elections staff to return for the weekend.
The state approved the audit around 11:30 a.m., and then the board re-certified the votes. A Lazarus representative objected to the certification.
That audit had to be confirmed by Saturday afternoon. Once word came from Columbia, the recount began in Horry County. The results from the recount matched the certification.
Reese Boyd, a lawyer representing the Johnny Gardner Campaign, said before the recount came out that he remains confident that the results will hold up as more information comes out moving forward.
On Friday, James Wiles, a representative for Lazarus, said given the circumstances of the election waiting past the deadline to certify the results was necessary for his side to decided next actions.
Wiles said his side did not want to protest unnecessarily, he wanted discovery, or the opportunity to review records relating to the election, before deciding what the Lazarus campaign would do.
Once the recount was announced, however, Larazus declared he had no objections and will not protest.
The unaccounted for votes, the state audit and recount did not change any part of the outcome in any elections. In addition to the chair race, the State House District 104 race and County Council District 2 race were also recounted, but the winners remained the same.
William Bailey took South Carolina House of Representatives District 104 with 2,312 votes and Bill Howard took District 2 with 1,484 votes.
Bailey and Howard were both on hand for the recounts.
"It's hard to give you a perfect election, but we think we gave you a fair one," the board chair said.
With all votes now ceritfied, the primary results are official. It was a historic process for Horry County. Lazarus said a lot of what happened was simple human error. He does hope in the future elections reviews what happened this primary season and make changes to training to ensure it doesn't happen again.