SC Rep Brawley to challenge House 70 primary election votes

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Rep. Wendy Brawley chats with colleagues before the session at the South Carolina Statehouse on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

jboucher@thestate.com

A sitting state representative said she plans to challenge the primary election results which, if certified, would cost her seat in the State House.

Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-Richland, plans to challenge the results of the District 70 House election in which she ran against another Richland County Democrat, Rep. Jermaine Johnson. But county election officials say there is no problem with the numbers.

Brawley and Johnson represent Richland County Districts 70 and 80, respectively, but those districts were consolidated when the state passed new redistricting maps last year. The pair battled for the only remaining seat on Tuesday.

Unofficial Richland County results saw Johnson win the election with just over 50% of the vote, beating Brawley by 121 ballots. Brawley received just under 48% of the total. A third candidate, Bridgette Jones Larry, obtained 2% of the votes.

Brawley said those results might not be accurate. She said unofficial results in two precincts in the county differed from results released by precinct clerks Tuesday night. She said the difference is enough to at least trigger a second round of elections.

“To the point where it impacts the outcome of an election, I think I have a responsibility to voters to speak up about it,” Brawley said Wednesday.

She said the precinct numbers for the three candidates conflicted with the county’s final counts. She said poll watchers for her campaign had photos proving the conflicting figures.

Richland County Chief Electoral Officer Alexandria Stephens said there was no discrepancy between precinct reports and county-reported results. But she said there was a mix-up with the result tapes posted by precinct clerks at the end of the night.

The two neighborhoods in question are Pinewood and Pine Lakes 1, which were co-located at Lower Richland High School.

There were two tabulation machines at the polling station. At the end of the night, each machine prints two copies of the final results. One copy is sent to the election office and another is taped at the polling station door for public viewing.

Stephens said she believes a pair of those duplicates were released publicly on Tuesday, rather than one of each machine.

“That’s my understanding,” she said, adding that she came to this conclusion because her office was also receiving duplicates of a machine, rather than one of each.

Brawley said she still plans to challenge the results and questioned the county’s explanation in a text message to the state.

“Clerks are required to sign and publicly display the vote count for each candidate from each voting machine. The machine counts that were posted and signed off do not reflect the numbers reported by the Election Commission for Pine Lakes 1 and Pinewood,” Brawley wrote.

She continued: “My poll watchers were in the polling station and took pictures of the signed tally sheets from the machines. The purpose of displaying voting machine tallies is to ensure that the public has access to a verified vote tally. I will be at the hearing (Thursday) for an explanation.

Brawley declined to provide the photos she said her poll watchers had taken, saying she might need to challenge in court and wanted to consult with a lawyer before sharing the photos. She also declined to say by how many votes the results differed, but said it was enough to change the result.

Johnson received 234 votes to Brawley’s 147 at the Pinewood Precinct and 121 votes to Brawley’s 81 at Pine Lakes 1, according to unofficial county results.

Brawley said she plans to challenge the results Thursday morning at the county’s interim voting hearing, which takes place before the election results are certified.

“I have someone pulling the tapes to make sure there are no discrepancies,” she said.

Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Brawley has been a member of the state House of Representatives since 2017. Johnson joined the body in 2021.

This story was originally published June 15, 2022 10:31 a.m.

Morgan Hughes covers Columbia news for The State. She previously reported on health, education and local government in Wyoming and won awards in Wyoming and Wisconsin for feature writing and investigative journalism. Morgan is new to the South but has fun learning about the quirks and culture of South Carolina.


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