Carol Jayroe, who ran for a seat on Georgetown City Council last year and lost by three votes, says an unapproved polling place move may have possibly cost her the election.
At issue is the Georgetown No. 3 Precinct which, for many years, has been located in the Georgetown County School Board conference room inside the School District offices on Church Street.
When last year’s municipal elections — and this year’s Republican Presidential Primary — were held, the voting in that precinct took place in the gymnasium of the Beck Recreation Center, located on the same property.
Donna Mahn, Georgetown County director of elections and voters registration, said she made the change to provide easier access to voters.
“I initiated the move because I thought it would be a nice location. Much easier for handicapped voters and the elderly in the precinct,” Mahn said.
She said what she did not know at the time was she needed approval from the County Board of Elections, the Legislative Delegation and the U.S. Justice Department before the move could be made — even though the polls remained on the same property.
Mahn said before the move was made, she did speak with the poll clerk who liked the new location.
After the elections took place, Mahn said she found out the moves must receive the Justice Department OK.
Richard Butts, a member of the County Election Board, said he first learned of the problem in February when he attended the County Democratic Convention.
“I had a couple of people ask me why I voted to approve the move. I knew the board had not voted on it,” Butts said.
He said he questioned the move when the Election Board met in March and was told by Mahn she had received approval — and was later told the same thing by Board Chairman Dean Smith — so he called the Justice Department himself.
Butts said he was told by a Justice Department official recent poll moves in Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet had been approved but no approval had been given for Georgetown No. 3.
Mahn told the Georgetown Times last week she contacted someone from the state before the move and was told approval was not required.
Mahn also said she was talking with someone from the Justice Department last year about another issue and mentioned the move in passing. She said she was told she did not need approval for the move.
She also said she has not heard one complaint from any voters about the change.
Jayroe said she feels Mahn and the board should have known the rules before the move was made but she does not feel the lack of permission was intentional.
“I certainly believe it was an oversight,” she said.
Nevertheless, Jayroe says it’s possible the move could have cost her enough votes to sway the election outcome.
“It certainly could have made a difference in my election since it was only three votes,” she said. “I don’t know if there were people who went to vote where they always have and left without voting.”
Butts said he would not be surprised if the move does not result in a lawsuit against the Board of Elections.
Jayroe was asked if she planned to file suit.
“What would it accomplish?” she asked. “Unless it results in a new election, I am not sure what it would accomplish.”
But, Jayroe added, she has not ruled anything out.
By Scott Harper
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