Richland Vote Update: Recount Resumes, Re-Vote Faces Long Odds
Questions remain on cause of lines; House 75 still undecided.
UPDATE: Wednesday 11:45 p.m.
After the recount, Kirkman Finlay was the winner in House 75 by a margin of 7207-6891. Also of note, the margin of victory in the Penny Sales Tax fell from from 9,345 to 6,575.
The South Carolina Supreme Court stepped in yesterday to halt the State Election Commission's recount of Richland County ballots and returned the recount to Richland County officials.
All the contests in Richland County but one have been decided. Democrat Joe McCulloch trails Republican Kirkman Finlay in the race for House 75 by only a few hundred votes. The recount, scheduled to be complete by Friday, is not expected to have any effect on other Richland County contests.
Meanwhile, a prominent election attorney told Patch on Tuesday that the group seeking another election faces an uphill battle. Todd Kincannon said that even though there are questions about conflicts of interest with the Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Office and about the real cause of lines of five and six hours long at polling places, proving those lines changed the result of the election is another matter.
Kincannon said those seeking a new election need to demonstrate either that there was "a 'fundamental flaw' in the election process or that there were enough illegally excluded votes that the outcome could have changed."
The former of these is the protestors best hope. Kincannon explained that the group who feels the problems at the polls were caused by those with a stake in the passage of the Penny Tax would need to prove that the number of people who waited to vote but didn't because of the lengthy lines exceeded the difference between the "Yes" and "No" votes. That number is 9,345.
Intent would have no bearing on a court's findings, Kincannon said. Whether or not an election was intentionally flawed or accidentally flawed wouldn't matter.
But Kincannon said he doubted the long lines were the result of a conspiracy to suppress voters against the Penny Tax. He invoked the theory of Hanlon's Razor in doing so: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
At a press conference on the recount, South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) Chair Dick Harpootlian said the long lines were unfortunate and they forced to SCDP to adapt its get-out-the-vote strategy. Still, Harpootlian said he was not in favor of a new election. "There are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there, but I'm not one of them."
A new election would not be unprecedented in South Carolina. A 2005 race for Simpsonville City Council saw the candidates separated by three votes. When two ballots for the winning candidate were tossed out as invalid, he lost his majority and the case went to the court. More than a year later, the Supreme Court ordered a new election. Read details on the case here.
Statement from SCDP Chair Dick Harpootlian on recount returning to Richland County Election Commission:
"We are encouraged and gratified that the Supreme Court granted the Election Commission's motion which the Democratic Party joined in to return the ballots to the county so they could be counted and certified by this Friday.
We believe that Richland County is now in a position to handle a count of the ballots in a manner which will inspire confidence in the integrity of the process."
From SCGOP Chad Connelly on recount returning to Richland County Election Commission:
"We are pleased with today's Supreme Court order. The rule of law was upheld. The Republican Party will continue to call for an immediate, outside investigation into the debacle at the Richland County Election Commission. Voters of every political stripe deserve better from their government."