Local lawmakers don't want special election for Viers' vacated seat

The pressure is on for local lawmakers who want to do away with a special election for Thad Viers' seat in the state House of Representatives.

Until last week, Viers represented District 68 in Horry County, which includes Forestbook, Socastee and Myrtle Trace. He resigned, and now a special election is set to fill his seat. Rep. Alan Clemmons, Rep. Tracy Edge and Sen. Luke Rankin see a problem with that.

The winner of the special election will essentially have the position in name only. Edge explained there's "no session for them to attend." State lawmakers stop meeting in June and won't return until later this year. The official session won't begin until January of next year, which is a new term.

Clemmons issued an amendment to a current bill that would essentially not allow special elections after normal filing for the regular election.

"A lot of people want to pass the bill. Procedurally, it's going to be hard," said Rep. Edge.

"I will try to get a bill through the Senate to avoid this unneeded expense, confusion to the state election officials and voters. We are running versus the clock both of General Assembly's time to pass a fix." said Sen. Luke Rankin.

Even if it's approved, Governor Nikki Haley has to sign off on it and so will the U.S. Department of Justice. That could take about 60 days.

For now, the special election is set for June 5. Filing for the special election lasts from April 6 - 16.

The chairman of Horry County's Republican Party, Johnnie Bellamy, also expressed her concern. "The special election is really going to be very time consuming, it's going to be costly, and also it's going to dilute the voters base. I think people - it'll dilute the number of people that come out."

Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Director Sandy Martin said the special election will cost about $15,000. She said poll workers are the biggest expense and if there's a special election runoff on June 19, that's thousands of more dollars.

Three Republicans have filed for Viers' seat in the regular election for the new legislative term where the new redistricting lines will apply. The primary election date is set for June 12.

These elections can't be consolidated on just one day. State law gives specific dates on when they can be held.

The Charleston area is dealing with a similar situation with former Senate Pro Temp Glenn McConnell's seat. He's moved to the Lt. Governor post now that Ken Ard has resigned.