Bobby Mayes, who lost the June 8 Democratic primary to incumbent Rep. Kenneth Hodges 81 percent to 19 percent, is contesting the results because he claims poll workers in Beaufort and Colleton counties acted improperly.
Mayes filed Friday to contest the results in the House District 121 race with state Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler. Mayes claims the voting process "was not seamless and frictionless" and that poll workers "did not display our democratic process."
The letter argued that neither Mayes nor Hodges were on the ballot at one precinct in Colleton County, that poll workers in Beaufort and Colleton counties were instructing voters who to vote for, and that a poll worker in Grays Hill told Mayes that if he purchased dinner from KFC for all the workers in the precinct, the worker would "look out for him."
Mayes' complaints of poll-worker misconduct were news to Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections.
"I never heard any of those complaints," Marshall said. "But if that happened, that would be a very big deal. I tell all of our poll workers that the only person more important than them on Election Day is the voters they're assisting."
Attempts to reach Hodges and Colleton County election officials Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The state Democratic Party's 92-member executive committee is scheduled to meet today in Columbia to discuss Mayes' protest and decide whether to overturn the election. The committee also will rule on Vic Rawl's challenge of his primary loss to political unknown Alvin Greene.
If party officials decide to invalidate either set of results, there is nothing in state elections law to determine what happens next, said Chris Whitmire, S.C. Election Commission spokesman.
"State elections law doesn't really address what the parties' options are in a contested primary," Whitmire said. "There is no precedent that we can find for what happens when a primary is contested and that challenge is granted. We would have to seek some legal advice on how to proceed if that were to happen."
Whitmire said unlike protests in general elections, which are handled by the Election Commission, protested primary elections are the responsibility of the state's political parties.
Mayes' defeat last week was the third time he has failed to unseat Hodges, a pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort and a former Bennettsville city councilman. District 121 covers part of Colleton County and much of northern Beaufort County, including Yemassee and Sheldon, part of Burton, all of Pigeon Point and downtown Beaufort north of North Street and west of Charles Street.
Hodges defeated Mayes in a special Democratic primary in 2005 after Rep. Walter Lloyd died in office. He went on to win the general election. Mayes switched parties to challenge Hodges for the seat as a Republican in the 2006 general election and lost again.