Con-'fusion': Candidate appears twice on ballot -- it's not a mistake

jkidd@beaufortgazette.comOctober 17, 2012 

  • Beaufort County elections chief Scott Marshall said about 200 people had cast in-person absentee ballots at the Bluffton elections office, and about 170 had done so in Beaufort as of Wednesday morning.

    Early balloting at both locations began last week for the Nov. 6 election. He said he also has received about 8,000 requests for paper absentee ballots.

    South Carolina does not allow “no-excuseâ€

Early voters in the 1st Congressional District aren't seeing double; one nominee for the newly redrawn district that includes most of Beaufort County appears on the ballot twice.

And it's not a mistake.

Bobbie Rose, who is challenging Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, was nominated by both the Democratic and Working Families parties. As such, election law requires that her name be listed twice on the ballot, according to S.C. State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

South Carolina is among a minority of states that allows such "fusion" candidates, Whitmire added. They are not listed once, with multiple party nominations noted beside their names, because that would complicate straight-ticket voting, he said.

The Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections has received a handful of questions from puzzled voters since absentee balloting began last week, according to elections office executive director Scott Marshall.

"They usually understand when we explain to them that it's part of state law, but for some, it doesn't seem to satisfy them," Marshall said with a laugh. "I had one gentleman write back and say, 'I'll have to see that law.' "

The confusion might not abate when results are reported on Election Day, Nov. 6.

County officials will tally votes for Rose the Democrat separately from Rose the Working Families candidate. Those results will be passed to the State Election Commission, which also will report them separately when they are posted to its website. However, in its certified results, all ballots cast for Rose will be added together, Whitmire said.

"When you vote, you're voting for the candidate, not the party," Whitmire said.

Those filling out paper ballots who intend to vote for Rose should do so only once, Whitmire said. Voting for her twice on the same ballot probably won't invalidate the vote, but it will subject the ballot to review by elections officials to try to determine the voter's intent, Whitmire added.

It is not possible for those voting on machines to cast two votes for Rose, he added.

Although South Carolina allows fusion candidates, they are rare, Whitmire said.

Marshall, who has been Beaufort County's elections chief since June 2009, said Rose is the first fusion candidate on a local ballot that he remembers.

Whitmire said at least two other candidates statewide appear on a ballot twice -- as a Republican and a petition candidate -- because of a dispute during this year's primary season, in which hundreds of candidates were removed from ballots over paperwork requirements.

"Some candidates didn't want to risk it and went ahead and filed as petition candidates if there was some chance they wouldn't be allowed to run in a primary," Whitmire said.

Follow editor Jeff Kidd at twitter.com/InsidePages.

Related content:

Beaufort County Elections website

South Carolina Working Families Party website

S.C. state election laws

Packet and Gazette coverage of 1st Congressional District Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston

Information on South Carolina's new congressional districts

Information on "fusion" candidates

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