Supreme Court stops recount of Richland Co. votes - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Supreme Court stops recount of Richland Co. votes

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SLED agents moving contested ballots into the recount room. (Source: Jody Barr) SLED agents moving contested ballots into the recount room. (Source: Jody Barr)
Officials gather for the recount. (Source: Jody Barr) Officials gather for the recount. (Source: Jody Barr)
SLED agents take ballots away Friday after Supreme Court order. (Source: Jennifer Emert) SLED agents take ballots away Friday after Supreme Court order. (Source: Jennifer Emert)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The state's highest court stopped a recount of Richland County votes just an hour after state election officials began the 8-hour process Friday afternoon.

"There's no reason to celebrate the Supreme Court stepping in," said SC Republican Party Director Matt Moore. "But we simply asked the Supreme Court this morning to take a look and be sure the law was followed the way this recount was ordered."

The ruling comes after the SCGOP filed a 107-page petition to block a circuit court-ordered recount in Richland County's now infamous election. The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear the request for injunction early next week.

SLED agents were gathering ballots, memory devices and voting machines on Friday afternoon to store them until the Tuesday hearing.

"It's the court's decision to decide whether or not it was right for a circuit court judge instead of the Supreme Court or any other body to order a recount and that's what the question here is," said Moore.

"It's unusual for the State Elections Commission to be ordered by a court to count ballots," said Chris Whitmire with the South Carolina Election Commission. "This is something a county elections commission would normally do."

Whitmire helped count thousands of ballots by hand Friday.

When asked why the county was not trusted to conduct the recount, Whitmire responded: "I have no reason to believe that the count was being conducted by the county was incorrect, but there was something about it that some of the parties to the election--candidates and political parties didn't trust."

Early Friday, the SCGOP filed the petition to halt the recount after a Richland County circuit judge ruled Thursday all ballots in all races in Richland County be tallied again in the wake of Tuesday's election, which was marred by a lack of voting machines and voter machine troubles that caused many people to stand in line for as long as six hours.

"We've got to fix it going forward," said Moore. "This election cycle has been filled with these sorts of debacles. We have to make it right. It has really eroded people's belief in our most fundamental right to vote."

The Supreme Court will hear the Republicans' request to kill the recount Tuesday morning.

The recount started just after 3 p.m., but was halted around 4:10 p.m. when the court's decision was received.

Read the Supreme Court order here

Election officials were to scan absentee ballots first. They were then going to scan Personal Electronic Ballots, which contain votes cast on voting machines, and the memory devices that contain records of votes cast and audit data.

Following those counts, absentee ballots from the contested SC House District 75 race were to be hand counted. After an audit, results reports would have been issued. Provisional and fail safe ballots will not be included in the state's recount. County board of canvassers must hold provisional ballot hearing prior to certification of the results to determine if provisional and fail safe ballots will be counted.

"I know the Richland County Election Commission is looking into getting all the answers to all of the questions - how many machines were sent to what precincts?" said Whitmire. "What was done during the day to get other machines out there? What was done to repair broken machines? All of those questions. Voters deserve answers on that."

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