Politics & Government

Little room for recount to change 5th District outcome

Voters take part in the Republican runoff election between State Rep. Tommy Pope (R-York) and Ralph Norman at the River Hills Community Church in Lake Wylie.
Voters take part in the Republican runoff election between State Rep. Tommy Pope (R-York) and Ralph Norman at the River Hills Community Church in Lake Wylie. Rock Hill Herald

The Republican runoff in South Carolina’s 5th District primary proves that every vote really does matter.

Only about 200 votes separated apparent winner Ralph Norman from state Rep. Tommy Pope after more than 35,000 voters cast their ballots in the hotly contested race for the GOP congressional nomination. That is only about 0.5 percent of the total, close enough to trigger an automatic recount under state law.

Counties in the 5th District likely will complete that recount Friday, after the S.C. Election Commission certifies the closeness of the result.

But there probably are not enough new votes to tally to overturn the result.

Elections officials counted absentee ballots before tallying the votes cast Tuesday in the 5th District’s 359 precincts.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said only two categories of votes still are outstanding.

▪ Any overseas or military ballots that still may be in the mail. Those ballots must be in hand when counties certify their final results Thursday.

▪ Any provisional ballots cast Tuesday, where there was a question about a voter’s registration.

“Even if there are 250 provisional ballots, they are likely to be split,” Whitmire said.

Pope’s campaign said it will wait until the final result is official before making any concession. “We will let the automatic recount process play out to ensure every vote is properly counted,” the Pope campaign said in a statement.

However, Norman’s campaign already is turning its attention to the June 20 general election.

“As of last night, our opponent is (Democratic nominee) Archie Parnell,” said Norman spokesman R.J. May. “We’re not wasting time with the runoff results.”

Parnell, who won the three-way May 2 Democratic primary without a runoff, also pivoted to the general election.

“The people of the 5th Congressional District have a clear choice,” the Sumter Democrat said in a statement. “Do we want a leader who fights for better wages, affordable healthcare and equal justice for all, or a career politician who ignores dangerous threats to our national security and thinks pregnancy should be a pre-existing condition?”

Pope won shared home county

The county-by-county numbers from Tuesday’s runoff show Norman’s apparent victory was due to his success in reaching out to voters outside his — and Pope’s — home county of York.

Pope carried only two counties — York, which the former prosecutor won by 1,400 votes, and Chester County, just south of York. The S.C. House speaker pro tempore won there by only 115 votes.

Norman carried nine of the 5th District’s 11 counties, winning several only narrowly.

Norman’s margin of victory was in the double digits in four counties. Fairfield County opted for Norman by 14 votes. Sumter County was decided by 20 votes in Norman’s favor. Norman also won Lee County by 60 votes and Union County by 72.

Norman also won two counties that other GOP candidates carried handily in the seven-candidate May 2 primary — Kershaw and Newberry. (Those candidates failed to advance to Tuesday’s runoff.)

Norman’s biggest win came in Cherokee County, which he carried by more than 500 votes.