Beaufort City Council candidates remind residents they have two votes

A candidate for Beaufort City Council wants to remind voters that even if she is not their first choice on Election Day, they still can vote for her.

Or either of the other two candidates who don't top their ballot.

Council seats are determined in at-large elections, so with two seats to fill on Tuesday, voters can cast ballots for two of the four candidates rather than a single candidate as in most races.

However, political newcomer Kimberlee Kolton said that point might not come across in campaign advertisements for another challenger, Larry Holman.

"This is my first time running for an elected office, and this may be business as usual," Kolton said. "But I thought it did generate confusion. ... I think he's encouraging people to just vote once."

Kolton and Holman are challenging incumbents Donnie Beer and Mike Sutton. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday's election will win the seats.

Kolton said some of Holman's advertisements show four boxes similar in appearance to a ballot.One box has Holman's name inside with a check mark next to it. The other three say "nonpartisan" and do not have a mark.

The ad, among other text, says "If you vote straight ticket remember to vote Larry Holman for City Council."

Kolton said she has heard from voters who thought they can vote for only one candidate, citing Holman's ad and other materials distributed by his campaign.

As of Thursday, Kolton had not spoken directly with Holman about her concerns, but she did raise the issue during a candidate forum in Beaufort last week.

Holman declined to comment Thursday.Races such as Beaufort's City Council election often result in "under-votes" in which the number of votes for each candidate does not equal the total number of voters, according to Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections.

When voters get to the Beaufort City Council race on their ballots, it will say "two seats to fill" at the top, Marshall said. The wording is dictated by the S.C. Election Commission.

The same wording appears on the ballot for the Fripp Island Public Service District and Beaufort County Soil and Water District Commissioner. However, in each of those elections, only two candidates are running for two at-large seats, so it is unlikely under-vote would change the outcome.

The machine will tell voters if they voted for fewer candidates than they're allowed before they cast their votes. It will ask if voters want to review their ballot; however it will not take them back to the races where the under-vote occurred, Marshall said.

Beer said many Beaufortonians probably know by now they have two votes, but someone new to the area might not realize it.

"I think it's important to let everyone know what they can do and let them make up their own mind how many votes they want to cast," Beer said.

Sutton, who has done very little campaigning this election, said he ran an ad four years ago that said "you have two votes, please cast one for Mike Sutton."

"I don't have an issue with Larry's ad," Sutton said. "I think the bigger issue here is truly that voters understand they have two votes."