Judge Larry Hyman ruled that votes for ex-candidate Ted Vick should have been counted in the overall total, which means Tinubu did not receive a majority of the votes in the June 12 primary. In setting up a hasty runoff election for South Carolina’s new congressional seat, Hyman’s ruling gives establishment favorite Preston Brittain another chance at winning the Democratic nomination.
The Elections Commission originally said Vick was no longer a candidate and his votes didn’t count, giving Tinubu the majority needed to avoid a runoff against Brittain. Elections spokesman Chris Whitmire said the commission’s longstanding policy has been to ignore votes for withdrawn candidates when determining a majority vote in a primary.
However, Hyman concurred with Attorney General Alan Wilson’s opinion that all votes in an election should be counted when determining a majority. The judge cited legal precedent as well as laws in other states in ruling that Vick’s votes should have been counted, and Elections Commission officials have agreed to change their policy to reflect Hyman’s ruling.
“The SEC wanted to remain consistent and not make a change in the way it counted votes while the outcome was in dispute,” said Executive Director Marci Andino, who added that the agency “appreciates the clarity this decision provides.”
Whitmire said the runoff election will be held this coming Tuesday, a quick turnaround for votes who may have been already confused by the tumultuous primary. In fact, we fully expect voter turnout in the June 26 runoff to be even lower than the June 12 primary’s historically low turnout level.
It remains to be seen whether Brittain will be able to overcome the 12-point gap which separated him from the former Georgia state representative in the primary. Based on the results from June 12, in order to beat Tinubu, Brittain would need to attract not only all of Ted Vick’s supporters, but all of the votes which went to the other two Democrats in the race as well.
The winner of the Democratic runoff will face the Republican nominee, either former Lt. Gov. André Bauer or Horry Councilman Tom Rice. Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Rice on Friday, calling Bauer a “self-serving career politician.”
And for the record, this is the second time during this primary season that a court has had to step in and clear up a vague and misinterpreted elections law. When you throw in the state’s historically low voter turnout, discriminatory ballot suppression measures and notoriously unreliable voting machines, it’s becoming easier to see how South Carolina’s bellwether status could be fading steadily into obscurity.