Cole v. Town of Atlantic Beach Election Commission

This case involved a dispute over the results of a town council election in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, held on November 3, 2009. Carolyn Cole and Windy Price (Appellants) appealed the circuit court order that affirmed the Town of Atlantic Beach Municipal Election Commission's (MEC) decision to de-certify and order a new election for two Atlantic Beach Town Councilmember positions. On November 3, 2009, the Town of Atlantic Beach held an election for the two positions on town council. After the polls closed, there were 39 contested ballots. The MEC held a challenged ballot hearing, after which, 28 of the challenged ballots were accepted. These accepted ballots included those of Price and Cole. The MEC conducted two protest hearings. In pertinent part, the MEC heard testimony concerning the allegations raised in several letters of protest that contested the election of Appellants on the grounds that Appellants failed to meet the residency requirements to run as candidates. At the close of the second hearing, a majority of the Commissioners voted to grant petitions for a new election. On that same day, Appellants appealed the MEC's decision to the circuit court. The MEC did not issue a written order until January 29, 2010. That order summarily found Appellants did not meet the residency requirements of running for public office. The MEC de-certified the election results and ordered a new election. The circuit court judge heard the appeal in May 2010, and issued an order that same day affirming the decision of the MEC. Upon review, the issues before the Supreme Court pertained to whether there was sufficient evidence in the MECs record to support its decision to decertify and order new elections. Appellants argued that the Supreme Court should vacate the MEC's decision to de-certify and order a new election because the MEC failed to comply with the requirements of the South Carolina Code that delineates the procedure for contesting results of a municipal election. The Court believed that the Town's "complete disregard of the provisions of section the statute was perpetuated by a conscious decision to ignore the will of the voters, and this delay ultimately undermined the legislative purpose behind requiring the expeditious handling of election disputes." Therefore, the Court agreed with Appellants and vacated the decision of the MEC. Accordingly, the MEC's initial certification of the town council election declaring Appellants Cole and Price as winners was restored. View "Cole v. Town of Atlantic Beach Election Commission" on Justia Law