By DEUCE NIVEN
It’s too soon to for a victory toast in the highly competitive race for Columbus County Sheriff, or a very close vote on allowing the sale of mixed alcoholic beverages in Tabor City.
Provisional ballots that won’t be considered or counted for more than a week could sway the outcome of both races in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election.
Countywide there are 150 provisional ballots that have not been counted or considered, including 30 from inside the Tabor City limits where voting hours were extended Tuesday evening, all of those cast after 7:30 p.m. placed in the provisional category.
Adding to the confusion was the hand counting of some ballots cast at the Tabor City Court Building before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, but after the ballot counting machine there jammed. Those ballots were counted by hand at the Columbus County Board of Elections Tuesday night, after other vote totals had been uploaded to the State Board of Elections website, indicating that the alcohol measure had passed by a dozen votes.
That margin narrowed to five votes when the hand-counted ballots were added to the total, the unofficial total standing at 385-378 before the 30 provisional ballots are considered.
Election day ballots that were counted Tuesday were evenly split, 178 for and against the measure that would allow for the sale of liquor by the drink in “hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theatres, and convention centers.”
In the race for Columbus County Sheriff Republican challenger Jody Greene holds a 52-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Lewis Hatcher, 9,353 to 9,301, before the 150 provisional ballots are considered.
Provisional ballots are offered to a voter when there are questions about their qualifications or eligibility to vote.
Members of the Columbus County Board of Elections will meet at 5 p.m. next Thursday, Nov. 15, to review the provisional ballots, and if those voters are deemed qualified and eligible, to add those ballots to the vote totals.
Board members will meet for the formal canvas of the votes at 11 a.m. the following day, on Friday, Nov. 16.
Look for more on the elections in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.
Mixed alcoholic drinks could soon be available in restaurants and other places in Tabor City, but shoppers in Columbus County won’t contribute to funding new schools, unofficial results of the election season that ended with election day Tuesday show.
Tabor City voters approved a mixed beverage referendum 376 to 364, and it was not clear late Tuesday if the number of provisional ballots not yet counted might be greater than the dozen vote margin of victory so far.
All vote totals won’t be official until the canvas is held next week.
Voters across Columbus clearly rejected the quarter-cent sales tax referendum designed to fund new school construction, with nearly 55 percent voting against in the unofficial count.
Republicans scored strong victories in partisan races for Columbus County Sheriff and legislative seats representing the county.
Sheriff Lewis Hatcher failed in his first bid for re-election, the first-term Democrat falling to political newcomer and Republican Jody Greene by just 55 votes, 9,332 to 9,277, in the unofficial tally Tuesday.
Incumbent state Rep. and Republican Brenden Jones of Tabor City easily beat back Democratic challenger and current Columbus County Board of Education chair Barbara Yates-Lockamy with more than 63 percent of the vote.
Incumbent state Sen. Danny Britt, a Lumberton Republican, took nearly 63 percent of the vote in his re-election bid over Democrat challenger John Campbell.
Technical problems and human error marred voting in Columbus and Horry counties Tuesday with a big turnout for the congressional mid-term elections nationally, some contentious and closely watched local races in Columbus, less locally for voters in northern Horry.
For more on election results and election day issues see tomorrow’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.