Those ballot questions: What happens if you vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

There are two “local questions” for Darlington County voters on the Nov. 6 ballots, and they’re not the easiest things in the world to understand.

The first and biggest question concerns the fate of the Darlington County Courthouse, although the word “courthouse” does not appear in the small headline over the question. The second question concerns letting restaurants, stores or bars in the county sell liquor “by the drink” on Sundays. Both ask you to vote yes or no.

A “yes” vote on the courthouse question means that you want to raise the sales tax in Darlington County by 1 percent for no more than four years to raise $20 million to build a new courthouse and administration building, possibly under the same roof or possibly as two separate buildings. Or possibly to do this by renovating “existing facilities.”

A “yes” vote on the Sunday liquor sales question means that you want restaurants, stores and bars in unincorporated areas of Darlington County to be able to sell drinks on Sundays. (The cities of Darlington and Hartsville already have laws allowing this.)

It’s that simple, and that complicated. Although the News & Press has published sample ballots, some voters have indicated that the language isn’t clear enough for them to be certain what they’re voting on.

In the case of the courthouse, that might be because the courthouse’s future could still go in different directions, even if the referendum passes, says county elections director Hoyt Campbell. “It gives them some leeway,” he said.
“I think a lot of people are leaning toward the ‘Yes’ (option)” on the courthouse question, he said. Many people seem to feel that “it needs something done.” A “yes” vote is a vote to take action on rebuilding, or at least upgrading, the courthouse, built in 1964 and opened in 1965 to much public acclaim for its “modernistic” cube shape. A “no” vote means you want it basically left alone.

The problem with the “no” option, Campbell said, is that conditions at the building aren’t going to get better by themselves and that eventually, “There’s going to be a reckoning.” It might come in the form of Darlington County Council being forced to raise property taxes, which would put the burden of upgrading the courthouse on homeowners.

The other local question on county ballots, the Sunday liquor-sales issue, has gotten far, far less discussion than the courthouse question. It’s essentially the same language that voters in the cities of Hartsville and Darlington saw on earlier ballots dealing with the same issue, Campbell said.

If the referendum passes and stores, bars and restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county are allowed to sell liquor “by the drink,” Campbell said, “It just puts those places on a level playing field with the rest of the county.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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