Election officials were set Friday to consider a runoff between the top two vote-getters in the Democratic race for South Carolina’s new 7th congressional district. Members of the state’s Election Commission are mulling if they will order the face-off between Coastal Carolina professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu and attorney Preston Brittain, who finished first and second, respectively, in Tuesday’s primary. At issue is whether to count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following an arrest for drunken driving, but remained on the ballot. Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign argue none of the five received a majority, so a runoff is necessary; otherwise, voters are being disenfranchised, they argue.
Commission officials said Tuesday night that Vick’s votes would not count. But the next day, a commission spokesman said Democrats’ arguments prompted the agency to seek an attorney general’s opinion. In a letter Thursday, Election Commission director Marci Andino told an attorney for the party that the commission’s long-standing policy is to not include votes cast for withdrawn candidates when calculating a majority. But she noted the commission will ultimately decide Friday afternoon as it certifies results of primaries statewide. In their advisory opinion, state prosecutors said Thursday that, while there is no state law that addresses whether to calculate the votes of a withdrawn candidate, a court would likely ultimately rule that Vick’s votes would count only for the purposes of determining the necessity of a runoff.
One court has already been asked to weigh in. On Thursday, a judge in Horry County ordered election officials not to calibrate voting machines for the runoff or distribute runoff materials until a hearing is held June 21. That’s five days before primary runoffs, which include a face-off for the GOP nomination for U.S. House 7, which is anchored in coastal Horry County and spreads over the Pee Dee region.