Originally created 11/16/00

Election outcome protested



EDGEFIELD, S.C. - A second candidate has filed a protest with the Edgefield County Election Commission, saying problems at the polls and illegal politicking justify a revote.

District 6 school board candidate Kenneth Collier's attorney, Michael Medlock, said Wednesday that he notified Election Commission Chairwoman Carol Rhoads of his client's request for a hearing.

Mr. Collier lost his bid for a second term to Sallie B. Cooks by only 26 votes.

Edgefield County Council Republican candidate Tim Padgett, also represented by Mr. Medlock, asked Monday for a revote. Mr. Padgett lost to Democrat Bill Vaughan by 22 votes.

Mr. Padgett said he discovered that some residents of District 2, encompassing Edgefield, were kept from voting in that race, while some who did not live in the district did vote.

Voters in Mr. Collier's district, which includes part of Trenton and Merriwether, also said they were not allowed to enter a "protest vote" for Mr. Collier. They claim the precinct book incorrectly showed they should not vote in his election, Mr. Medlock said.

Protest votes are required when a voter insists on the right to vote in a district, but most people don't know that, the Edgefield attorney said.

But incorrect precinct books aren't the main reason Mr. Collier is upset. He also blames faulty machines and a biased poll worker for costing him some votes.

Polls at Douglas Elementary School in Trenton did not open until 8:45 a.m., an hour and 15 minutes later than state law requires, because the voting machines were down, Mr. Medlock said. But state law provides for "unofficial ballots" for those who wish to vote while machines are inoperative.

Instead of using the unofficial paper ballots, the poll manager told voters that the precinct would stay open until 8:45 p.m., Mr. Medlock said. Those voters who returned after 7 were not allowed to vote, he said.

Mr. Medlock also said that the poll watcher for the Democratic Party was related to a candidate on the ballot - his client's opponent. Myrtis Brightharp, the poll watcher, is a sister-in-law of Mrs. Cooks, and campaign materials supporting Mrs. Cooks were illegally allowed in the voting place, he said.

The Election Commission will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. Monday in county council chambers, 215 Jeter St., to decide if either protester is entitled to a new election.

Any candidate can appeal the decision to the South Carolina Election Commission, which would hold a hearing between Nov. 27 and Dec. 11, Mrs. Rhoads said.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.