Pawleys Island Mayor Jimmy Braswell and Town Council candidate Josh Ricker each filed protests Thursday afternoon, following an hours-long ballot challenge hearing by the Board of Canvassers -- That’s the name of the Georgetown County Board of Voter Registration and Elections when they convene after an election to certify votes and election results.
Earlier Thursday, the Board of Canvassers met for about five hours to consider challenges and certify election results for the county’s three municipalities – Georgetown, Andrews and Pawleys Island.
You may read this previous story about the hearing:
Brian Henry, who had been certified as the new mayor of Pawleys Island, said Friday: “I think it is disappointing that the will of the voters is being challenged. I do believe the registered voters have spoken, and somewhat decisively after the votes were counted. It’s prolonging an already divisive election.”
Following the Board’s vote to accept all challenged ballots in the Pawleys Island races, Henry – whom the Board subsequently certified as the new mayor – and current Town Council members Rocky Holliday and Guerry Green were chatting with attorney Butch Bowers and others in the Elections Board office. Part of the discussion was about having a swearing-in ceremony for the new mayor and the returning Town Council members.
Without being definite, they suggested that the oaths of office could be administered as soon as Monday, Nov. 11.
That won’t happen as yet.
The oath of office for the mayor and members of Town Council won’t be held until after the election protest is resolved.
Hearing will be Tuesday
Kristie Richardson, director of the Voter Registration and Elections office, said the protest hearing will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 10 a.m. in County Council Chambers in the old courthouse building at 129 Screven St. in Georgetown.
Richardson was newly named as director on Thursday. She’s been with the local elections office for several years, and served as interim director following the death of Donna Mahn. The Election Board held its regular meeting on Thursday after the certification meeting and voted unanimously to make her the permanent director.
Incumbent Mayor Jimmy Braswell talked with the Georgetown Times/South Strand News about midday Friday.
“They didn’t listen to a bit of the evidence,” Braswell said about the ballot challenge hearing.
Several poll watchers who had challenged ballots on Tuesday testified that they did not believe that about 20 voters were residents of the island, but had changed their registration in order to vote in the municipal election. They cited for each challenged voter various public records. With each of those challenges, board members voted unanimously to accept the registrations as valid.
While Braswell and Ricker submitted separate letters of protest, they both stated the same objections.
The letters are available to read or download here:
Points raised include:
“The ballot challenge hearing … lacked due process of law in that witnesses could not be cross-examined.”
“Inappropriate laws were considered,” the hearing “failed to consider the legal standard for determining an individual’s residence … and the factors to consider” such as tax records and property ownership.
The letters also state that “The commission failed to consider that both candidates Green and Henry were not qualified electors entitled to vote based on the evidence and testimony of the poll watchers.”
“Take it to the end point”
“Many, many people say take it to the end point,” Braswell said. The issue is important not just to Pawleys Island, but to the whole state, he said.
Braswell said he believes that the Election Board will accept new information and that witnesses may be called.
As for the swearing-in, Braswell said, “State law says that if there’s a protest, until it’s resolved you can’t do it (take the oath of office).”
“There will be no Council meeting Monday,” he said.
Town Council postponed
“With that (vote certification) being contested,” Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said, “there’s no point to meeting Monday with the election.”
“I don’t know how long the hearing takes,” he added.
As for scheduling the Council meeting, “We only need 24 hours to get a notice out. Really, there’s no business pressing that needs to be addressed.”
“It could be a couple of days, or a couple of weeks,” Fabbri continued. “If it does take a couple of months, the incumbent remains in office. So, we’ll sit back and see what happens.”
With the protest hearing coming on Tuesday, Henry talked about the divisiveness on the island.
“I think that any time you start to fraction, the North End, the middle, and the rest, it creates division.”
“Now we are trying to divide, or whose votes should count,” he said.
“Trying to create more division by dividing people into whose vote should count. It’s time for that to stop,” Henry said.
With the protest hearing set for Tuesday and no swearing-in set, “That’s the plan for now,” he said.
“Since the votes have been certified, but not fully resolved, I am willing to accept that.”
“I do think it’s prolonging the course of government by having to prolong this meeting.”