By Paul Gable
Grand Strand Daily has learned that a computer glitch caused incorrect absentee vote totals to be credited to candidates Tuesday night resulting in a change of results for two Horry County primary election races.
According to sources involved in the process, an apparent fault was first discovered Wednesday morning in the absentee vote totals credited to the Horry County Council District Five candidates.
The sources said that some of the absentee vote totals are stored in a computer prior to election night, those being the early voters in the county. Other absentee votes are registered on paper ballots that were cast in the traditional absentee method.
When the paper ballot vote totals were added to the computer vote totals, the addition of approximately 300 extra votes were credited to candidate Clif Smith, according to sources. None of the other candidates received the benefit of extra votes.
The discovery of the mistake was made at the Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Department headquarters Wednesday morning as the office was preparing for official certification by the Horry County Election Commission Thursday.
After the discovery was made, the absentee vote totals credited in all the races in the county were rechecked.
As a result of the recheck, the new vote count in Horry County Council District Five is Tyler Servant 1,076, Reese Boyd 630, Chuck Ottwell 411 and Clif Smith 360.
Smith initially placed second as a result of the computer glitch. With the new results, Servant and Boyd will face-off in a runoff election Tuesday June 24th.
The other affected race is S.C. House District 58 where the recount left candidate Jeff Johnson with 51% of the vote total, enough to win first ballot victory outright. Johnson will now avoid a runoff election with Jeffrey Garland as a result of the recount.
Other races had minor changes in absentee vote totals, but not enough to affect final results or force the necessity of a runoff election.
According to many years of election statistics, the second place finisher in the first round of primary balloting wins 85% of runoff elections.
This is exactly what happened with Tom Rice and Andre Bauer two years ago in the runoff election for the Republican nomination for the new S.C. Congressional Seventh District. Bauer led after the first round of voting, but Rice picked up nearly all the support of the eliminated candidates to win the runoff election going away.
The race between Servant and Boyd has many similarities to the Bauer/Rice runoff.
Boyd said he was very thankful that the election process corrected its mistake.
“Rumors of my election death have been exaggerated,” Boyd said Wednesday evening. “We will continue to work hard to get our message out to the voters before the runoff in two weeks.”