Horry County Council chairman candidate ‘disappointed’ by investigation into absentee ballot error

Mark Lazarus
Mark Lazarus(Source: Mark Lazarus campaign)
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 1:23 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The runner-up for Horry County Council chairman sent a letter to the executive director of the South Carolina Elections Commission (SEC) after an investigation into an absentee ballot error.

It was discovered that 1,377 Democratic absentee ballots were mistakenly sent to Republicans during the primary runoff election in June.

Incumbent Johnny Gardner narrowly defeated Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination, with Gardner receiving 11,345 votes while Lazarus received 11,092.

The Horry County Council called for the SEC, the State Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Legislature to investigate the mistake made by a third-party vendor, Sun Solutions.

RELATED COVERAGE | Printing company reveals Horry County absentee ballot mistake ‘was an extremely rare error’

Earlier this month, the SEC sent a letter to Chairman Johnny Gardner, which revealed that the error was caused by a network drop that occurred while the Horry County file was processing. Sun Solutions said, “the error was an extremely rare but unfortunate occurrence.”

In a letter to the SEC’s executive director, Lazarus said network drops happen all the time and asked why there was no protocol or quality control in place.

“I am disappointed in the state election commission’s refusal to ensure this election be conducted in a fair and competent manner, or to offer any remedy to legitimize this election that was tainted by a failed absentee ballot outcome,” Lazarus wrote.

Lazarus also claims that he heard several reports from voters who did not get their absentee ballots until after Election Day. He said Horry County election officials also confirmed that hundreds of absentee ballots weren’t sent in until after the Election Day deadline.

“Now that the state election commission has admitted the mishandling of 1,400 Republican ballots in the Horry County Council chairman’s race that was determined by about 250 votes, what will be done to remedy this election and determine who really won?” Lazarus wrote in the letter.

Lazarus appealed to the Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Board to delay certification until all absentee ballots that were received late were counted, but the board said that state law does not allow them to open late ballots.

RELATED COVERAGE | Lazarus accepts certification Horry County Council chair runoff results, no longer appealing

He also appealed to the Horry County GOP to have all ballots counted, but his request came a day late and the appeal was denied.

Lazarus also filed an appeal with the South Carolina GOP but ended up not pursuing the issue on the state level.

As for the upcoming November election, the Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Board has decided not to use a third party when printing and mailing absentee ballots, and will instead do everything in-house.