COLUMBIA – Democratic leaders voted today to uphold the results of the June 8 Senate primary, dashing Vic Rawl's hopes of a second chance and cementing the nomination for political novice Alvin Greene.
Greene, an unemployed Manning resident, survived Rawl's protest of the primary results, despite failing to show up to defend his status before the party's executive committee.
Several committee members lamented the fact that the party has to live with the results of an election they described as flawed. But they said Rawl failed to prove his case that irregularities caused the primary to yield an invalid result that needed to be overturned.
Statistical anomalies and reports of voting machine problems point to an election “misfire” that cost Rawl the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat on June 8, his supporters testified Thursday.
Rawl's team brought in voters, computer experts and others to testify before the Democratic Party executive committee in hope of showing his stunning defeat in the primary was an invalid result that should be overturned.
Rawl, a former judge and state lawmaker from Charleston, lost the primary race to Greene, an unemployed political novice from Manning who did no measurable campaigning.
Greene, who took nearly 60 percent of the vote, didn't show up for the protest hearing, despite encouragement from party leaders to do so.
More than 200 people packed an auditorium at the S.C. Education Association to hear arguments on the matter. Over two hours, Rawl's team did their best to sow doubts about the unreliability of the voting machines that were used, but stopped short of alleging that the machines malfunctioned or were tampered with.
“We're not saying the machines were hacked, we're saying the results were wrong,” Rawl campaign manager Walter Ludwig said. “The fact of the matter is: we don't know what happened on that Tuesday.”
Rawl's team tried to show the race yielded several statistical oddities in voting that could not easily be explained, such as disparities between Greene's counts in absentee voting and in the general election. In Lancaster County, for example, Rawl won the absentee vote by an 80-percent margin, but lost the general election by 17 percent, Ludwig said.
Anne Jett Owens, a Rawl staffer, said she fielded about 25 complaints from voters around the state who had difficulty casting votes for Rawl. Three of those voters told the committee their stories.
Susan Turner of James Island said after she cast her vote in the governor's race, a gray screen with strange font appeared on the machine indicating a vote had been registered for Greene. She went back and made sure her vote went to Rawl before finishing, she said.
Belinda Dickerson of Mount Pleasant said her voting screen did not list Rawl's name on the ballot.
Joan Weigel of Pelion, in Lexington County, said she voted for Rawl but the machine registered her vote to Greene. When she went back to change it, she had to hit Rawl's name three or four times before it registered, she said.
Two computer experts cast doubts on the reliability of the electronic voting machines and South Carolina's reliance on the machine's software to tabulate votes, with no back-up method of checking the accuracy of those results.
Duncan Bell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina, said a number of problems have been documented with similar machines in other states, pointing to security issues and calibration difficulties. Given that history, the results in Greene's primary victory should be looked at “with an enormous amount of skepticism.”
Computer forensic expert Steve Abrams said he tried to examine flash cards in Berkeley County's machines as part of his examination but was denied access. While there, he noticed the machines appeared to be connected to the Internet, a security gaffe that could allow someone to remotely alter the software, he said,
In response to committee questions, the experts acknowledged they had found no hard evidence of machine malfunctions or tampering.
Committee member asked a number of questions about technical matters and were curious why no other races were affected if machine irregularities were an issue. One member asked whether any other race in the past 50 years had yielded such a bizarre result.
“Well, Mark Sanford got re-elected,” someone yelled from the back of the room, drawing much laughter.
Today's hearing further highlights one of the strangest elections in state history. Greene, 32, an unemployed military veteran from rural Clarendon County, paid his $10,440 filing fee to enter the U.S. Senate race but did no measurable campaigning.
He had no campaign office or campaign manager. He doesn't own a cell phone and checks e-mail at the Manning public library.
In her opening remarks, Democratic Chairwoman Carol Fowler told the crowd that the party has no discretion in allowing candidates to run for offices as long as they meet state qualifications and pay the filing fee. Greene did both, she said.
Fowler added that she tried to talk Greene out of running because he “seemed so naïve about what it would take to run for office.” Greene, however, remained adamant about running for the Senate.
Greene's win has touched off a storm of controversy in the Democratic Party, and he has become an object of fascination for the national media.
While Rawl logged 17,000 miles on his car crisscrossing the state and issued 300,000 automated phone calls, Greene emerged out of nowhere, raised no campaign funds and was unknown to Democratic officials even in his hometown. No one expected him to hand Rawl such a drubbing, leading some party officials to question whether Greene was a "plant" thrown in the race as a spoiler.
The day after Greene's primary win, the S.C. Democratic Party called on him to withdraw as the nominee-elect after it was reported that he faces a felony obscenity charge. That count stems from his November arrest for allegedly showing pornography to an 18-year-old University of South Carolina student in a computer lab at the school. Greene won't talk about the charge, but he has been plenty vocal about his intent to stay in the race.
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