Richland County candidate loses appeal of election results

dhinshaw@thestate.com December 4, 2012 

— Michael Letts lost the protest he filed with the Richland County Election Commission in a claim the Nov. 6 election was invalid because the county deliberately provided too few election machines.

At a three-hour hearing Monday, Letts — who said he didn’t bring a lawyer to emphasize that he’s part of a citizen protest — attempted to show that some poll managers complained as far back as September that the county’s election plan was inadequate.

But the two poll managers he called as witnesses didn’t show up: One was in New Orleans, celebrating his anniversary, and the other was at jury duty.

Letts said later he had expected to lose at the county level and will appeal to the state Election Commission later this month. If necessary, the next step would be the S.C. Supreme Court.

Letts brought eight witnesses to the stand, including embattled election director Lillian McBride, who said she still doesn’t know how many machines were dispatched on Election Day; and her assistant, Cheryl Goodwin, who said her “original list” calculating the necessary number of machines was not used to assign machines. She said she did not know why.

Letts argued the county’s voting “fiasco” created long lines discouraging “thousands” of people from voting. He asked for a new election.

But John Moylan, representing the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, said holding a new election would disenfranchise the 159,000 people who stuck it out to cast a ballot.

Helen McFadden of Kingstree, an expert on S.C. election law, represented the county.

The election commission, guided by attorney Steve Hamm, said Letts had to provide evidence of a discrepancy that would have changed the outcome of the referendum.

Voters approved the referendum by a 6,591-vote margin.

In the end, commissioners Adell Adams, Allen Dowdy and Elaine DuBose denied Letts’ protest and apologized for their part in the election.

Letts also lost his appeal of the District 8 council results, and Celestine Parker lost her appeal in District 7.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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