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#SCStateHouse: Abysmal Turnout For Special Election

Lowcountry race draws only five percent of registered voters …

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What if you held an election and no one showed up?

That pretty much happened in the South Carolina Lowcountry this week when the Palmetto State’s two establishment parties held primary elections for a vacant seat in the S.C. House of Representatives.

S.C. House District 113 (map) became vacant months ago thanks to the resignation of former lawmaker Seth Whipper (news of which was first reported by our website).

This election was never going to be competitive – meaning it was never going to attract much in the way of voter interest – but the lack of turnout is a truly troubling omen for our state’s representative government, especially considering the vast power wielded by the state’s legislative branch.

The Democratic primary was won handily by Marvin Pendarvis, who was anointed by party insiders and heavily supported by State Senator Marlon Kimpson.

Pendarvis raised almost four times more money than his closest competitor – Angela Hanyak.

“Hanyak’s lack of resources crippled her campaign,” one observer told us.

Still, Pendarvis won his party’s nod with only 804 votes.  To put that number in perspective, according to the S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.org) there are 24,715 registered voters in this district.  On the GOP side it was even worse, Theron Sandy II won the GOP nomination with only 178 votes.

All told, only 1,251 people cast ballots in this election – roughly five percent of the registered voters in the district.

That’s terrible …

Pendarvis is likely to prevail when the special election for this seat is held on November 7.  After all, he’s got the support of Kimpson and other powerful black leaders – including powerful congressman Jim Clyburn.

That may produce victories in low-turnout primary elections held for heavily gerrymandered seats, but does it help the state’s perpetual minority party in the long run?

“To me this race highlights why the Democratic Party is dying: They are still running on a plantation system, but instead of the white elites calling the shots, the party is now controlled by Uncle Jim Clyburn,” one white Democrat told us.  “Until voters wake up and decide to look at something other than skin color or who the people in charge want, our state will stay mired at the bottom of most state rankings.”

Hard to argue that point …

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