Courtroom drama in SC primaries isn't over yet

A 15th Circuit judge is expected to decide Friday if there will be a Democratic primary runoff in South Carolina's 7th Congressional district.

Judge Larry Hyman heard both sides of the argument Thursday and decided he needed to sleep on it before making a decision.

On primary election night, the South Carolina Election Commission declared Gloria Tinubu the outright winner, to be the Democratic party's 7th district nominee.

But supporters of second-place finisher Preston Brittain filed a lawsuit to try to force a runoff claiming Tinubu wouldn't have reached a majority if some 2,300 votes cast for Ted Vick had been counted.

Vick dropped out of the race two weeks before the primary, but his name remained on the ballot.

In Thursday's hearing on the suit, Conway attorney Morgan Martin, representing Brittain's supporters, brought one of the plaintiffs to the stand, to testify that the issue comes down to giving voters a voice.

"It's clear to me that one of the principles of this country and this state and this county and district is that a vote cast is a vote counted," said Vincent Masterpaul of Myrtle Beach.

But election commission attorney Liz Crum said Vick formally withdrew as a candidate, and the commission has long handled those votes in one way.

"It has been a longstanding policy of the election commission since 2006, to state that when a candidate withdraws prior to a primary that the votes for that candidate will not be counted towards determining a majority," Crum said.

But Martin told NewsChannel 15 that regardless of what the election commission may have considered its policy in past elections, the issue is about state law and he said in this case, the law is clear.

"(The commission) developed the policy," Martin said. "I wasn't there when it happened or why they did it but I think if you go back and look at the statutory law, and you look at the fairness to the voters, you just got to count them."

Hyman said the issue goes to the heart of voter confidence and he's well aware of what's at stake: deciding who could be the next U.S. Representative for South Carolina's new 7th District.

"That is as an important decision as has ever, ever come before me," Hyman said.

The judge asked attorneys on both sides to write up summaries of their positions for him to look over and he'll issue a decision by noon on Friday.

Hyman also lifted the restraint that had been placed on preparations for the Republican runoff, so county election commissions can begin preparing absentee ballots for that election next Tuesday.