Complaints about City of Darlington election land on SLED’s desk

There have been at least two reports of absentee voter intimidation in the recent City of Darlington election and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is taking a closer look.

The race for Ward 1 ended in a run-off between Sheila Baccus and Coleman Cannon, who currently holds the seat. Baccus had 222 votes to Cannon’s 129 votes. Audrey DuBose-Gore came in third with 114 votes.

Hoyt Campbell, Director of the Darlington County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, confirmed that SLED was asked to look into complaints of voter intimidation.

“They had two complaints that were filed with them that voters were intimidated by someone,” Campbell said. “Absentee voters is what they are investigating.”

The numbers reported by the Board of Voter Registration and Elections show that of Baccus’ 222 votes, 140 of them were absentee votes; of Cannon’s 129 votes, 34 were absentee. Gore had 46 absentee votes out of her total 114 votes.

Campbell said that in recent years, the county has seen an increase in absentee voting.

“The bad thing is that we had an unusually low number of voter turnout at the precincts,” Campbell said. “In Darlington (precinct) 6 we had 170 some people registered to vote in the city and only three people voted out of that precinct.”

Thom Berry, spokesperson for SLED, said that because they received the citizen complaints directly from the Darlington Police Department they chose to look in to the complaints but they have not launched an investigation.
“We received two reports from Darlington PD late Thursday last week with allegations about the municipal election in Darlington,” Berry said. “We have assigned an agent who is going to look into the matter and try to get in touch with the individuals who filed the reports to determine whether or not there is anything of a criminal nature to be investigated. So at this time, no, we are not officially investigating. We are just following up the reports we had gotten from Darlington PD.”

Berry said that SLED’s regional office received the information rather than the state election commission office.
“Normally when someone files a complaint it would go to the state election commission first,” Berry said. “They would look at it and see if there had been any criminal activity involved. If that were the case, they would contact us to begin an investigation. In this particulate case, our regional office got the information directly from Darlington PD so we decided to go ahead and look into it. We did talk to the elections commission so we’re just going to see if there is anything there. If there is, we will proceed accordingly.”

Author: Duane Childers

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