Atlantic Beach mayoral candidate files lawsuit with S.C. Supreme Court over election drama
ATLANTIC BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The drama surrounding Atlantic Beach’s mayoral election is now reaching South Carolina’s highest court.
John David, one of the candidates for Atlantic Beach mayor, filed a lawsuit with the South Carolina Supreme Court on Tuesday.
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It lists the defendants as the town of Atlantic Beach, Mayor Jake Evans, Josephine Isom, who was his opponent in the race, Councilwoman Jacqueline Gore and the Municipal Election Commission.
The lawsuit focuses on an emergency town council meeting that took place on Friday where leaders voted to dissolve the election commission while in the middle of a recount for the mayoral election.
THE EMERGENCY MEETING
The Thursday after the election on Nov. 7, the town’s election commission counted the votes and found that David received 65 votes while Isom received 64 votes and there were two ballots cast for write-in candidates.
Later that day, Isom filed a protest of the certification of the mayoral election stating that several votes were cast by those who do not live in Atlantic Beach.
The election commission re-convened on Friday morning for a recount, but the lawsuit states the meeting was interrupted by Evans who said the proceedings could not move forward because a court reporter had to be present in order to transcribe the hearing.
The election commission elected to go into recess until 2 p.m. when a court reporter could be secured.
But during the recess, the Atlantic Beach Town Council convened an emergency meeting at 12:30 p.m., where the town council voted in favor of removing Joe Montgomery, Kenneth McIver and Carolyn Gore from the Municipal Election Commission for the town of Atlantic Beach and dissolving the commission.
It has essentially left the mayoral election in limbo.
The lawsuit alleges that the emergency meeting was unlawful because it didn’t meet certain requirements.
“Here, there was no ‘emergency’ authorizing the Town Council to convene an ‘Emergency Called Meeting’ on Friday, November 10, 2023, because there was no ‘emergencies affecting life, health, safety or the property of the people,’” the lawsuit states.
Court documents also show that the town council ignored public notice requirements and no attorney was physically present when the town council went into executive session.
Once the decision was made, the lawsuit states that election commission members were not told why they were removed from their positions.
“In either event, the true motivation of Defendants Jake Evans, Josephine Isom, and Jacqueline Gore in calling an ‘emergency’ meeting of the Town Council was to disenfranchise the lawful voters of Atlantic Beach because they were disappointed with and disapproved of the results of the November 7, 2023, municipal election,” the lawsuit states.
Drew Kurlowski, an associate political science professor at Coastal Carolina University, also pointed out to WMBF News that cities and towns can only remove an individual member from a commission, it can’t remove an entire commission. It’s against state law for a municipality to not have an elections commission unless the county has taken over the election process for the town or city.
The Horry County Election Commission tells WMBF News since the county isn’t in charge of the election, it can’t step in, and the South Carolina Election Commission said it can’t either.
REQUESTS FOR JUDGEMENT
The lawsuit is now asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to step in and help the election move forward.
It asks for the state Supreme Court to declare that the Nov. 10 vote to remove the election commission members and dissolve the election commission is void.
The lawsuit also asks the court to re-instate Montgomery, McIver and Carolyn Gore as members of the election commission.
In addition, it calls for the state Supreme Court to sanction Evans, Jacqueline Gore and Josephine Isom.
The lawsuit also requests that the court order the ballots, ballot box, ballot box keys and all other election materials be secured by the court, the State Election Commission, the Horry County sheriff or some similar party pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
WMBF News has reached out to the defendants in the case. Evans and Gore have not answered our calls or called us back, and Josephine Isom said she does not have a comment on the lawsuit.
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