Town of Atlantic Beach and Horry County officials will return to a Conway magistrate courtroom next week to settle a dispute about town leaders refusing to return the voting machines used in the November election. Magistrate Bradley Mayers took a motion to return the machines to town officials from the town attorney, Kenneth Davis, under advisement, and continued the hearing until 10 a.m. Wednesday so Davis would have time to prepare.
Horry County sheriff’s deputies took the voting machines Tuesday after town officials refused to return them after the voting. Magistrate Bradley Mayers issued a court order for deputies to seize the machines and Atlantic Beach officials plan to dispute that seizure and want the machines returned to them during Wednesday’s hearing.
Davis, who is representing Atlantic Beach, declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing because it is an ongoing issue. But during the hearing, Davis said the seizure of the machines interferes with an “ongoing election protest in Atlantic Beach.” “By seizing these machines the ongoing judicial process . . . has been interrupted,” Davis said and noted there was no evidence town officials planned to tamper with the machines.
Sanford Graves, an attorney for Horry County, told Mayers that the machines are county property and Horry County officials provide the machines the day before an election and pick them up the day after the election.
Town Manager Benny Webb wrote Horry County officials that the machines would not be returned until an expert had inspected and reviewed them, according to documents filed with the court order.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce had said the town would not return the machines because they were evidence that votes were not recorded properly during the election. Pierce was defeated in the voting, but a protest hearing last month resulted in the Nov. 1 results being tossed out with orders for a new election in six months.
The order kept current officials in place until the new election.
Graves told Mayers that if Atlantic Beach officials had a problem with the machines being defective they must file an injunction in court for the machines to be investigated. On Wednesday, Mayers is expected to hear from local and state election commission experts and Atlantic Beach officials about their need to retain custody of the machines.