A decision on whether to count all votes cast in the Democratic primary for the newly created 7th Congressional district will not be made until Friday when state officials meet to certify results, a S.C. election official said Wednesday.
Gloria Bromell Tinubu, a Georgetown college professor, was declared the outright primary winner with 52.4 percent of the tally -- enough of a margin to best four candidates and avoid a runoff with second-place finisher Preston Brittain, a Myrtle Beach attorney who received 39.4 percent of the vote.
But S.C. Democratic leaders believe that the state should not have excluded about 2,340 votes cast for state Rep. Ted Vick, whose name remained on the ballot despite withdrawing from the race last month after being charged with DUI.
Adding back the number of votes that Democrats say Vick received would put Tinubu with about 49 percent and push her into a runoff with Brittain, who received endorsements from many state party leaders including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.
Vick's votes were included in county returns, leading to confusion in news reports about the race. State election officials said they do not have an official tally of votes cast for Vick.
Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said he is unaware of any precedent to not count votes for someone whose name was on the ballot -- even if they dropped out of the race.
“If 2,000 folks wrote in Ted Vicks’ name, they would be counted,” Harpootlian said. “This is the same thing. Those people voted.” Write-in votes are not allowed in primary races.
The S.C. Election Commission informed the state Democratic party that it would not count Vick's vote before the primary, spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
The commission based the ballot count on state law that says "the majority shall be ascertained by dividing the total vote cast for all candidates by two." Election officials took "candidates" to mean those who are active in the race, Whitmire said. Vick sent a letter withdrawing from the race after his arrest.
The commission is seeking advice from the S.C. Attorney General's office on how to proceed and will weigh the arguments from the state Democratic party on Friday, Whitmire said. Election officials also will announce how many votes were cast for Vick once it receives audited results from the counties.
If the tally stands, Harpootlian expects someone either file a lawsuit asking to put the result on hold or file a complaint with the S.C. Democratic party where the executive committee could vote to repeat the election without Vick’s name on the ballot.
“That could be expensive,” he said noting the state election commission would pay for the re-vote.
Harpootlian hopes instead the commission will add Vick’s votes and hold a runoff between Tinubu and Brittain on June 26.
Tinubu said Wednesday that she never thought Vick's votes would be counted after he dropped out of the race. She expects to be certified the winner on Friday. "We’ll take it as we receive it, but we’re comfortable with our double digit win," she said.
Tinubu declined comment when asked if she thought state Democratic leaders were trying to force a run-off to keep alive hopes of a perceived party favorite, Brittain.
Brittain's campaign manager John Keig did not say in a statement Wednesday what actions, if any, the candidate would take.
"In yesterday’s election, more than 2,300 voters have been told their vote does not count – it’s not right," Keig said in his statement. "We are committed to making sure these voters' voices are heard and will oppose any effort to disenfranchise voters in the 7th District."
Among Republicans vying for the seat covering the Myrtle Beach and Florence areas, former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer will meet Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice in a runoff on June 26.
Bauer received the most votes in the primary with 32 percent of those cast versus 27 percent for Rice.