Writing in a candidate necessary for at least 1 Aiken Co. election

News 12 at First at Five / Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- For Tina Bevington, voting is important.

"That's your voice. That is your true right as an American,” she said.

However, this November, she'll have to do a little more homework before taking to the polls, given the number of write-in candidates vying for various positions. It’s all a result of a South Carolina Supreme Court decision this past spring that knocked hundreds of candidates off ballots statewide. Many of the casualties were in Aiken County.

"I would say the court system really has taken away the rights of the people to be able to vote in a fair fight in Aiken County,” Bevington said.

Some like State House District 81 candidate Jane Vaughters and Aiken County Council District 7 candidate Andrew Siders petitioned to get back on the ballot as petition candidates, but many failed to get the signatures required.

Jim Vause didn't get back on the ballot but still plans to face incumbent Sheriff Michael Hunt as a write-in.

For the country treasurer spot, all four candidates -- Sonya Spray, Angela Gunter, Debra Folk and Robin Saylor -- got kicked off the ballot. Those four now plan to run as write-ins, and they’ve been joined by three more vying for the country treasurer spot -- Melissa Oremus, John Cagle and Ed Smith.

More recently, Jason Goings, who was running against Charles Barton (who is on the ballot) for county auditor, is now running for county treasurer. Goings was kicked off the ballot after the court’s decision, too.

Ultimately, to vote for a treasurer in Aiken County, you’ll have to write in one of those eight names or another of your choosing.

Bevington is simply concerned that most people won’t bother. Some won’t know a name to write in, and others will look over the purely write-in treasurer election altogether.

"They'll probably just skip that opportunity for treasurer. You look at a blank screen. What name are you going to put there?” she asked rhetorically.

But at the Aiken County Voter Registration and Elections office, Executive Director Cynthia Holland is preparing for the somewhat unusual election night. They expect to have almost 20 staff members to tally up write-in ballots. She says it’s a process that might take extra time.

At her office, they're helping educate voters about the write-in process, too.

"We've had a lot of organizations and different churches coming in asking us if they could borrow a machine so they could do demonstrations because of the write-ins,” she said.

She says the process isn't too hard. A voter will push "write-in” under the candidates in a particular election (if there are any), or in the case of Aiken County treasurer, voters will only have the “write-in” option, since no candidates will be on the ballot for the treasurer election. A standard “QWERTY” keyboard will appear, and the voter can then type the name of his or her choice.

Holland says misspellings are usually acceptable. Election commissioners will tally write-in votes based on what they perceive the intent of the voter was when it comes to misspellings or name abbreviations.

However, Holland and Bevington encourage voters to do their homework ahead of time and come to the polls knowing the candidate or candidates they want to write in.

Here are the elections containing candidates who have filed intent to be considered a write-in candidate. Some are linked to websites or public Facebook pages. Others are unlisted or unknown.

South Carolina House District 86
Bill Taylor (incumbent Republican)
David Lobb (write-in)

Aiken County Sheriff
Michael Hunt (incumbent Republican)
Jim Vause (write-in)

Aiken County Treasurer
John Cagle (write-in)
Debra Folk (write-in)
Jason Goings (write-in)
Angela Gunter (write-in)
Melissa Oremus (write-in)
Robin Saylor (write-in)
Ed Smith (write-in)
Sonya Spray (write-in)

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