Runoff likely for Tuesday's Bluffton council election

dburley@islandpacket.comNovember 4, 2013 

    Voters will be asked to provide one of the following types of photo identification at the polling place:

    • S.C. driver's license. Out-of-state licenses will not be accepted.
    • Another type of S.C. identification card issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles
    • S.C. voter registration card with a photo
    • A federal military ID
    • U.S. passport

    Voters who forget their ID may cast a provisional ballot that will count only if they show their photo ID to the county election commission before results are certified.

    Voters who do not have a photo ID can get one free from the local county voter registration office. They must provide their name, birth date and the last four digits of their Social Security number. Go to the Board of Elections and Registration, 15 John Galt Road, Beaufort; or Board of Elections and Registration, Bluffton Annex, 61-B Ulmer Road.

    Those who have extenuating circumstances that prevent them from getting a photo ID before the election can bring their old, non-photo voter registration card to the polls. They will be allowed to vote after signing an affidavit stating they have a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID. Allowable impediments include a religious objection to being photographed, a disability, illness, work schedule, lack of transportation, family responsibilities or any other obstacle the voter finds reasonable.

Tuesday's election might not fill two Bluffton Town Council seats -- with seven candidates on the ballot, it will be difficult to win a majority of votes.

Instead, voters can expect a runoff.

"The more candidates you have, the less likely, mathematically, you'll have a majority," said state election commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. "Add the fact that you have two seats open, and it becomes even more unlikely."

Voters Tuesday can cast ballots for two of the seven candidates vying for the nonpartisan, at-large seats with four-year terms. They are incumbents Oliver Brown and Michael Raymond; Gary Bensch, husband of Beaufort County Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch; former Councilman Fred Hamilton; Garfield Moss, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2008; Larry Toomer, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2005; and former Councilman Charlie Wetmore.

If no candidate wins a majority -- determined using a formula that takes into account the total number of votes cast, number of seats open and number of candidates in the race -- then the top three vote-getters will compete in a runoff Nov. 19, with the top two vote-getters winning seats. If one candidate wins a majority Tuesday, there will be a Nov. 19 runoff between the top two remaining candidates.

If two candidates win a majority, then the election is decided, Whitmire said.

In the event of a runoff, all registered voters can cast a ballot on Nov. 19, regardless of whether they vote Tuesday, Whitmire said.

The town's five polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The National Weather Service forecast shows partly sunny skies with a high near 67 degrees and a slight chance of showers after 9 a.m.

Voter turnout in recent years has been abysmal in Bluffton, especially in off-cycle election years. There are no other races on Tuesday's ballot.

In 2011, 11.9 percent of the town's 7,252 registered voters cast ballots; in 2009, less than 10 percent of the town's 5,650 registered voters showed up on Election Day.

By comparison, 3,264 people -- or 66 percent of the town's 4,914 eligible voters -- cast ballots in Bluffton's mayoral race in 2008, a presidential election year.

Marie Smalls, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration, said she couldn't predict how many of Bluffton's 8,521 registered voters would turn out Tuesday.

"I just hope it's more than in past years," she said.


  • Belfair (partial, this election only): Bluffton Library, 120 Palmetto Way
  • Bluffton 1A, 1B, 1C (partial): Bluffton Library, 120 Palmetto Way
  • Bluffton 1D, 2A, 2C (partial): First Baptist Church, 11 Church St.
  • Bluffton 2B, 5 (partial): Bluffton Elementary School, 160 H.E. McCracken Circle
  • Bluffton 2D (partial): Pritchardville Elementary, 9447 Evan Way
  • Bluffton 4B, 4C (partial): H.E. McCracken Middle School, 160 H.E. McCracken Circle
  • Failsafe: Board of Elections and Registration, 15 John Galt Road Beaufort or Board of Elections and Registration, Bluffton Annex, 61 B. Ulmer Road
Follow reporter Dan Burley at

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