Voters reject referendums

6 mins read
Bob Sofaly photo While keeping their distance from the actual polling place Chris Steel, left, and Port Royal Town Council candidte John Hazel do a little last minute campaining Tuesday morning near Burton 2A precinct at Community Bible Church on Parris Island Gateway. Just out of camera range is Kimberly Heyward.

Ballot questions on Local Option Sales Tax, change in county government answered with overwhelming ‘No’

Above: While keeping their distance from the actual polling place, Chris Steel, left, and Port Royal Town Council candidate John Hazel do a little last-minute campaigning Tuesday morning near Burton 2A precinct at Community Bible Church on Parris Island Gateway. Just out of camera range is Kimberly Heyward. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Mike McCombs

Unlike governors races in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday night, Election Day in Beaufort County was virtually drama free.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected both referendums placed on the ballot by County Council – the Local Option Sales Tax and changing the form of government, specifically the election of Auditor and Treasurer – with “no” votes carrying more than 70 percent in both races.

And in Town Council races in the Town of Port Royal, the two incumbents in the race easily held off two newcomers.

Turnout was low, with 20,753 ballots being cast, a 14.2 percent voter turnout.

Referendums

Local Republican groups, as well as the Beaufort TEA Party had campaigned heavily against the 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax, as well as the change in Beaufort County government.

If approved, the referendum would have required the county and municipalities to use 71 percent of the revenue “to provide a credit against the property tax liability of taxpayers in the county and municipality.” The other 29 percent would have been used to fund county and municipal operations.

The L.O.S.T. was rejected, 14,904 votes (72.5 percent) to 5,654 votes (27.5 percent). As a result, the sales tax in Beaufort County will drop from 7 to 6 percent.

Port Royal poll worker Dean Moss, left, helps Shanda Owens with her ballot Tuesday. Photo by Bob Sofaly.


Beaufort County received notification Monday from the State Treasurer’s Office that the 1 percent Transportation sales tax, approved in 2018, had collected more than $119 million as of September 30. With the county anticipated to have cleared $120 million by the end of October, the county will verify and file the appropriate paperwork to end the program and notify residents and businesses when the tax will end.

On Local Question 2, voters, once again, overwhelmingly voted “no,” 16,404 votes (79.7 percent) to 4,182 votes (20.3 percent), meaning the county will keep the current system, whereby the County Treasurer and County Auditor are elected.

A “yes” vote would have meant those positions would be appointed by the Beaufort County Administrator,

Likely, this ballot question was a result of the ongoing situation with Auditor Jim Beckert, who has been sued twice by Beaufort County in efforts to compel him to do his elected duties.

In addition, Beckert, elected to a four-year term in 2018, is facing two separate harassment suits from Beaufort County Treasurer Maria Walls and former Beaufort County Financial Officer Alicia Holland.

As an elected official, Beckert can’t be disciplined by the county and can only be removed by the governor, which is not likely.

Port Royal Town Council

Four candidates were vying for two at-large Town Council seats in the Tow of Port Royal, and incumbents Mary Beth Heyward and Darryl Owens were re-elected rather easily, garnering almost the same amount of votes.

Heyward (471 votes, 35.2 percent) and Owens (465, 34.7 percent) were trailed by challengers John Hazel (284 votes, 21.2 percent) and Eddie Gugino (103 votes, 7.7 percent).

Yemassee Mayor and Town Council

The choice for Mayor should have been easy – incumbent Mayor Colin Moore was running unopposed. Moore won, but with just 60 percent – 160 votes. Write-in candidates claimed 107 votes.

There were six candidates –  Trena Ellis, Natasha N. Greene, Robert Moore, David Paul Murray, Stacy Pinckney and Darrell Russell – running for two vacant at-large Town Council seats.

Murray (128 votes, 26.4 percent) and Pinckney (116 votes, 23.9 percent) won in a relatively tight race that saw just 485 ballots cast. Moore (95 votes, 19.6 percent) and Ellis (90 votes, 18.6 percent) were competitive, as well.

Certification of Elections

Certification Hearings will be held on Thursday, Nov. 4 at the Beaufort Voter Registration and Elections office at 15 John Galt Road, Beaufort, S.C. 29906.

9:30 a.m. – The Town of Port Royal Municipal Election Commission will meet to certify the Town of Port Royal Municipal General Election results.

10:00 a.m. – The Town of Bluffton Municipal Election Commission will meet to certify the Town of Bluffton Municipal General Election results.

10:30 a.m. – The Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County’s Board of Canvassers will meet to certify the Beaufort County Referendums Special Election results.

The Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County will hold their monthly Board Meeting immediately following their certification hearing at 10:30 a.m.

Mike McCombs is the editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

Above: While keeping their distance from the actual polling place, Chris Steel, left, and Port Royal Town Council candidate John Hazel do a little last-minute campaigning Tuesday morning near Burton 2A precinct at Community Bible Church on Parris Island Gateway. Just out of camera range is Kimberly Heyward. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

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