Sumter’s Ward 1 lacks sitting city councilman 8 months after election

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Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 6:53 PM EDT
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SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - More than 7,200 Sumter residents don’t have a voting city council member.

The council seat for the city’s Ward 1 remains unfilled as a legal challenge to voting results from last November play out.

Anthony Gibson won the seat in a run-off. If sat, he’ll represent the residents in the northern part of the city.

Reginald Evans also ran for the seat, coming in 5th place (out of five candidates) and tallying just 62 votes out of 999 cast.

Evans unsuccessfully appealed the results with the Sumter County Board of Voter Registration, Sumter County circuit court, and is currently appealing a dismissal from the S.C. Supreme Court.

As a result of his continued appeals, Gibson has been unable to become a voting member of the council.

State law on local elections prevents an election’s winner from being sat until an appeals process is completed.

The drawn-out challenge has drawn the ire of a group of concerned Sumter residents who call themselves “The Squad”.

“It’s totally unfair, it’s totally unfair. Mr. Gibson did everything he was supposed to do,” squad member Dr. Patty Wilson said.

State law allows for the incumbent to remain in power until the appeal is handled. Ward 1′s incumbent, outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Lowery, died days before the election.

Gibson declined to comment and attempts to contact Evans were unsuccessful.

Gibson’s campaign manager Jeffrey Lampkin said Gibson is optimistic the case will soon be resolved in his favor.

“It seems undemocratic but it’s the process and we have to allow the process to prevail and that’s one of the things we’re trying to make sure everyone understands. That at the end of the day, he has a due process to be able to allow the court to hear his case, to allow his case to be heard at every level,” he said.

“But at every level, they’re going to make a decision to show that the election was held in integrity, the election was held with all the standards and the rights and the things that were supposed to be done.”

Squad member Dr. Sonja Murphy called on Evans as responsible for fixing “the mess.”

“Mr. Evans if you see this, then you need to go and drop the charges and let your conscience be your guide. Because it wasn’t right to start,” she said.

A spokesperson for the City of Sumter sent WIS a statement reading:

The City of Sumter is awaiting final legal ruling from the state Supreme Court on the challenge of the 2022 election. Until that ruling is received, Councilman-elect Anthony Gibson has been meeting regularly with the constituents in Ward 1 through various neighborhood meetings and personal visits, as well as meeting with various City Staff, Departments, and other elected officials to address issues and/or concerns. He has also been attending City Council meetings and state-level meetings. The only duty Mr. Gibson has not been able to perform is participating in the actual voting process as a sworn-in member of City Council.

The term runs through November 2026.

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