Governor Sets Date for District 3 Do-Over

 

Mikel Trapp

 

Walter Larry Stewart

WINNSBORO – Nearly three weeks after the State Election Commission upheld the County Commission’s decision to overturn the results of the Nov. 4 election for the District 3 County Council seat, Gov. Nikki Haley issued her official order for a new election Friday. Incumbent Mikel Trapp and challenger Walter Larry Stewart will square off in a do-over on March 3.

The decision marks the end of a long legal battle by Stewart and his attorney, Debra Matthews, taking the election out of the realm of protest and putting it back into the hands of voters.

Trapp edged out Stewart by five votes on Nov. 4, but following a Nov. 7 recount, that advantage was trimmed to four. Irregularities found on absentee ballot envelopes by Stewart supporters, as well as reports of voters in District 3 receiving the incorrect ballot style at their polling places, prompted Stewart to file an official protest of the results, which the County Election Commission heard on Nov. 17.

Matthews successfully argued before the Commission that five voters – two in Mitford and three in Monticello – had been presented with the wrong ballot style on election day and therefore were unable to cast a vote in the District 3 race for County Council. The State Commission, hearing Trapp’s appeal on Dec. 1, upheld the County’s ruling.

Trapp’s appeal hinged on the ability of his attorney, John C. Moylan III, to introduce to the State Commission new evidence – sworn affidavits from two of the five voters who had been given incorrect ballot styles, testifying that both voters would have voted for Trapp had they received the correct ballot styles. The State Commission, however, bound by the rules of the Circuit Court, could not accept new evidence in an appeal and upheld the County’s decision without considering the affidavits.

Trapp and his attorney had the option of appealing the State’s decision to the S.C. Supreme Court, but the Dec. 11 deadline to do so passed without them doing so.

As Trapp’s term is officially up at the end of the month, the Governor’s Office said it is also considering the appointment of an interim to fill the District 3 seat between Jan. 1 and the March 3 election. A decision on the appointment is expected before the end of the year.