South Carolina elections officials have ordered a delay in voting for the state House seat formerly held by Bobby Harrell.
In a controversial decision, the State Election Commission voted unanimously Thursday to give Republicans enough time to pick a replacement candidate. The commission rejected an affidavit filed by Harrell seeking to withdraw from the ballot, saying a guilty plea deal with prosecutors had already disqualified him.
Harrell’s ineligibility had meant the reliably-Republican district in Charleston and Dorchester counties suddenly had only Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward on the ballot. While Harrell’s name would appear, votes for him could not be counted.
But the South Carolina Democratic Party and an attorney representing Tinkler at Thursday’s hearing maintained it was “unprecedented” to order a new election after absentee voting had already begun. State party chairman Jaime Harrison said the move by a Republican-appointed board (although one commissioner is required to be Democratic) at the advice of staffers from a Republican state attorney general “reeked of politics.”
“We will be taking this to the highest court here in South Carolina,” he told reporters immediately after the commission’s decision. “Because we need to stand up for the voters in this state and the voters in that district.”