Deon Tedder certified winner of the SC Senate 42 primary after recount

The Charleston County Board of Elections says Deon Tedder is the certified winner of the SC Senate 42 primary runoff.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 1:02 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 7:33 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Board of Elections has certified State Rep. Deon Tedder as the winner of the SC Senate 42 Democratic Primary runoff election.

Officials recounted ballots Thursday morning after the race between Tedder and State Rep. Wendell Gilliard ended with a 1% or less margin of victory, Tuesday.

Charleston County Board of Elections Executive Director Isaac Cramer said the close margin is a reminder for voters to be prepared for Election Day.

“You avoid the provisional ballot hearing process because voters can show up for that,” Cramer said. “The board will hear the challenge from the voter, what happened, the facts, but at the end of the day, state law has to be followed, so make sure you’re vote ready and get all that address information and make sure you know where you’re going to vote on Election Day.”

The Charleston County Board of Elections certified their results on Thursday in favor of Tedder over Gilliard.

The board said Tedder garnered a total of 2,065 votes in the county for Tuesday’s election. They said Gilliard garnered a total of 2,053 votes.

The Dorchester County Board of Elections certified their results in favor of Gilliard over Tedder, though their vote totals were much less than Charleston County. Election officials said a total of 57 ballots were cast in the county, where Gilliard won by just one vote over Tedder, 29-28.

Before the initial certification, the Charleston County board held hearings for 10 provisional ballots that were cast in the election. The board voted to not count eight of the 10 votes. The two provisional ballots were split between Tedder and Gilliard, each gaining one vote.

The board also revealed two of the ballots that were not counted were from voters who tried to vote in the election twice -- once in early voting and once on Election Day.

“Trying to vote twice in South Carolina is a felony. It’s illegal,” Cramer said.

Cramer added those two ballots have been forwarded to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for investigation. State law prohibits the board from identifying who those votes were cast for, as they are sealed ballots.

“In our system here in South Carolina, we’re able to catch that,” Cramer said. “We’re able to challenge those votes to show, ‘Hey, that’s the system working.’ We’re able to catch anybody, even if it’s not nefarious. Let’s just say it was an innocent thing. They thought they didn’t vote, and they showed up because sometimes we have elderly voters. They may not remember that they came in to vote, but we’re able to flag that and see it in the system.”

The eight ballots that were not counted during Thursday’s hearing were the only ones that were not counted throughout the entire election, Cramer said.

Once the votes were certified for the first time, an automatic recount was triggered due to a 1% or less margin of victory. None of the candidates gained or lost any votes due to the recount. The state certified the recounts and Tedder as the winner around 4 p.m.

Gilliard said the tight primary race suffered from low voter turnout.

“[For a] senate seat, you have the potential for 50,000-plus voters,” Gilliard said. “We only mustered up about 4,000. That’s not nothing to be proud of. Of course, I have concerns about that.”

Gilliard added he has a few days to protest the election results, which, he said, may have been affected after bomb threats at one of the precincts.

“The bomb threats didn’t help any, of course. I mean, let’s face it, they had to shut down some precincts and people were turning around,” Gilliard said. “From what we gathered, so that didn’t help this process any.”

He said he will decide by Monday afternoon if he will protest the election results.

When asked if he had come to the decision that nothing else needs to be done and if he would accept the results of the election, Gilliard said, “Surely will, yeah.”

In a statement released following the certification, Tedder said:

“The District 42 runoff election results have been officially certified and we remain the winner. I want to thank my friend and colleague Representative Wendell Gilliard on a hard-fought race. We agreed much more than we disagreed but at the end of the day we are all on the same team: Team South Carolina. And I look forward to working with Representative Gilliard when the General Assembly resumes in January. I am incredibly grateful to the voters of District 42 for their support, trust, and prayers. I pledge to work tirelessly to make them proud every day. We are FIRED UP, to say the least. Now let’s finish the job in November.”

If the results are not protested, Tedder will face Republican nominee Rosa Kay on Nov. 7 for the senate seat. Kay said she had no comment on her potential future opponent.