Penny tax passes after vote count finally ends

dhinshaw@thestate.com November 8, 2012 

Lawn signs for and against the penny sales tax are pictured outside Kilbourne Park Baptist Church in Columbia on election day in November 2012.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • How the sales-tax vote shook out Yes 74,029 No 64,684

— Richland County’s penny-sales tax referendum has passed.

Vote counts that extended into Wednesday night showed the heavily debated tax was approved by a 9,345-vote margin.

Supporters and opponents alike spent the day waiting ... and waiting ... for the final tally.

It was announced by county election officials shortly before 7 p.m. By that time, chamber executive Ike McLeese had called pro-penny campaign manager Heyward Bannister a half-dozen times or more, hoping for a definitive end to the campaign for a $1 billion in transportation projects.

Absentee ballots were the big unknown, McLeese said.

Pro-penny consultant Adam Fogle arrived at the county administration building shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday and stayed until the bitter end.

He spent the day “hanging out, getting numbers, getting people updated,” he said.

“We actually had a nice family atmosphere. We had about six people here all day, and various people coming and going.”

Supporters said passing the tax – an increase to 8-cents on the dollar, starting May 1 – was crucial to improving the county’s transportation network.

Opponents said it was a money grab.

Throughout the day Wednesday, taxpayer advocate Don Weaver took calls from voters wondering about the final outcome.

“I felt like we’d lost,” Weaver said.

But he couldn’t be sure.

The answer came a full day after the polls closed.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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