Tuesday’s general election for Aiken County Council chairman, featuring an unopposed candidate, will cost taxpayers between $30,000 and $40,000, according to the county Board of Elections.
Gary Bunker was the only name that appeared on the ballot. He won handily, with 2,240 votes.
There were 202 ballots cast for write-ins. Among those, Andrew Siders — whom Bunker defeated in the Republican primary for the seat in August — got 123.
The rest were cast for “crazy names like Mickey Mouse,” said a worker in the Board of Elections office, and weren’t tallied individually.
While it might seem a waste of money and time to hold such an election, it’s required by state law, said Chris Whitmire of the state Elections Board.
Under current law, a one-candidate special election does not have to be held if only one person filed to run. If more than one files, as was the case in the council chairman race, a general election must be held, he said.
The law is “silent on what to do if there’s one person left after a primary,” Whitmire said.
So there was no way for the county to avoid the expense.
And new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 will do away with the single-filer exception.
“There will be no provision for canceling any election,” Whitmire said. “They’re all going to be held.”
The state helps counties by paying for some elections. For example, it paid for the council chairman primary, but the responsibility for the general election fell to the county. In statewide races, the state pays for primary and general elections.
The council chairman’s seat became vacant when Ronnie Young won the election to fill the District 84 state House seat vacated by Chris Corley, who resigned in January after being charged with domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.