Scotland County Board of Elections officials are distressed about the pricey nature a July runoff that has been triggered by last Tuesday’s primary contests, the results of which were rubber stamped by the board Tuesday.
The runoff election, which was requested by candidates in six races up for voting in Scotland County, will cost the county more than $12,000.
“That’s a big expense for a county already having financial troubles,” said Board of Elections Director Dell Parker, who has already informed County Manager Kevin Patterson of the expected cost.
According to Patterson, the money would come out of the Board of Elections’ budget for the next financial year — a budget which Parker already expected to be bare bones.
Adding to Parker’s cost concern is the historical lack of participation by Scotland County voters in run off voting.
In 2008, when there was a Democratic primary run-off for the Commissioner of Labor nomination, only 134 voters cast ballots in the county.
With $13,407 spent on that election in total, the county, on average, spent $100.06 on each participating voter.
Only three votes were cast at Gibson’s Precinct 10 during that run-off, held on June 24, and zero ballots were cast during early voting.
“That’s why I get disappointed with second primaries,” said Parker.
“In Scotland County the interest is often not there, but we are still required by law to have them, and they cost the same thing no matter how many races there are and no matter how many voters take part.”
Just as in 2008, Scotland County will be required by law to provide early one-stop voting for nearly two weeks prior to the July 17 run-off and will still be required to have two paid workers at each of the county’s ten voting precincts from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on election day.
“I really do wish people would show an interest, because it is their money paying for it,” added Parker.
Patterson acknowledged the “challenging” position that the second primary puts the already-cash-strapped board of elections in, but added that he “hopes that we can include the (run-off costs) into the projected budget without increasing it.”
“It will be extremely tight,” said Patterson of the board’s budget.
Both Parker and Patterson suggested that the state’s run-off rules should be reviewed, as they often lead to what they perceive to be unnecessary second primaries.
“When you have a statewide race with six candidates in it, it’s hard for one candidate to get the 40-plus-1 percent (required to avoid a state run-off),” noted Parker.
While the 40+1 requirement excludes the possibility of a run-off, the second primaries do not OVERSET FOLLOWS:occur automatically. Run-offs must still be requested by second place candidates.
Patterson suggested that the general assembly consider lowering the run off threshold to “33 or event 30 percent” in light of how lofty the 40+1 requirement has been proven to be by recent results.
The second primary, runoff election will take place on July 17, with one-stop voting set to begin on June 28 and end on Saturday, July 14. Absentee ballot requests must be submitted in writing by July 10 and they must be completed and received in the county office by 5 p.m. on July 16.
On the ballot will be the US House of Representatives Republican contest between Scott Keadle and Richard Hudson. Keadle trailed Hudson by more than 6,000 votes after election night, at 32-percent to 22-percent.
On the Republican side, Scotland County voters will also have the opportunity to vote on Lietentant Governor, Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
On the Democratic side, only the the Commissioner of Labor primary will be up for votes.
The county board of elections spent much of Tuesday finalizing last Tuesday’s primary results, and there were no significant changes between the official results and the unofficial results reported by the board last week.