COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Democratic Party officials have upheld a surprising U.S. Senate primary win by an unemployed military veteran, nixing a protest lodged by their favored candidate that could have required a new vote.
The party's executive committee decided Thursday there was not enough evidence of impropriety to nullify the June 8 election victory by Alvin Greene. The 32-year-old lives with his father and waged no visible campaign.
The decision nixed a bid for another primary by candidate Vic Rawl, who contended he lost because of problems with electronic voting machines.
"Everyone in this room is used to the idea that campaign effort translates into votes," said Rawl campaign manager Walter Ludwig. "We had a high level of effort, Mr. Greene had none. It isn't that he wasn't competitive, it's that he wasn't competing."
Ludwig told the party Rawl had 600 volunteers, made more than 100 appearances and ran top-notch websites, all elements of a winning campaign. "Vic Rawl campaigned hard in this race and this has to be compared to Mr. Greene, who did not campaign at all," said Ludwig. "He made no campaign appearances, no literature, no website, he missed every county convention, state convention, including the one in his hometown."
The Rawl camp's explanation was voting machine malfunctions. Rawl argued the results didn't follow absentee ballot trends in the counties Greene won. That, and possible voting machine corruption is the only way Rawl's camp could figure Alvin Greene could have gotten around them.
Rawl hired Dr. Steve Abrams, a computer forensic examiner, to investigate. His theory was it's possible someone hacked the voting machines.
"If somebody had hacked them, it would be pretty much a fairly easy job to either set up the ballots to flip the votes, or the machine tallying the votes to be flipped," said Abrams.
Rawl presented witnesses, like Joan White from Pelion. White says she voted for governor in the primary without any problems, then moved down the ballot to the Senate race.
"Hit Vic Rawl's name and it lit up, went to the third race, picked the candidate, went to hit the vote button, looked to check my ballot to make sure everything is okay and Mr. Greene's name had a green check mark by it," White said. White says she didn't notify anyone until this past Monday, nearly a week after the polls closed.
Party officials say they need to move past the primary and focus on other races. Greene will face Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who is considered a heavy favorite.
"I am the best candidate in the U.S. Senate race in South Carolina," Greene said when contacted after the party's ruling. "And let's stop my opponent and the Republican Party from reversing forward progress in South Carolina and in the United States of America."
Greene, 32, stunned the party establishment when he defeated Rawl in the primary to see who would face DeMint, the heavy favorite in the fall. Greene won with 59 percent of the vote to Rawl's 41 percent.
Earlier this week, Greene told The Associated Press he would neither attend the hearing nor send a representative.
Greene's surprise victory spawned a number of queries into how the unemployed military veteran who lives with his father won the primary, despite raising no money and mounting no campaign.
A Republican state lawmaker has asked state police to investigate how Greene paid his filing fee of more than $10,000, after claiming indigence and being appointed a public defender to represent him in a court case. And a Washington-based watchdog group wants South Carolina's attorney general to investigate if someone had paid Greene to file for the office.
Greene has said he saved up for two years to pay the $10,440 candidate fee.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler asked Greene to withdraw after AP reported he was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student, then talking about going to her room at a university dorm. He has declined to comment on the charge, has yet to enter a plea or be indicted and says he's staying in the race.
Majority Whip Jim Clyburn also wants state and federal authorities to probe whether Greene was a plant for forces seeking to discredit South Carolina's Democrats.
For his part, Rawl has declined to speculate on whether fraud could have played a role in Greene's victory.