Thursday, August 31, 2023
The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the reversal of a decision by a local election commission to overturn the results of closely-contested elections.
McBee is a small town in Chesterfield County in the Pee Dee region of eastern South Carolina. The town's residents, many descendants of its patriarch Colonel "Bunch" McBee, and other students of correct pronunciation of local names will appreciate the readers of this opinion observing that the correct pronunciation of the word McBee is "MAK-bi." See Claude Neuffer & Irene Neuffer, Correct Mispronunciations of Some South Carolina Names 113 (Univ. of S.C. Press 1983) (including a short statement of the history of the town and noting, "The unknowing often say mak-BEE . . .").
Glenn Odom defeated Charles Short in the 2020 mayoral race by ten votes. James Linton and Robert Liles defeated Hewitt Dixon and Charles Sutton in the town council race by similar margins. The losing candidates from each race challenged the election results based on the allegation Sydney Baker violated section 7-15-330.
The losing candidates bore the factual burden of proving Baker violated the statute. No witness testified Baker violated the statute and Baker herself denied violating the statute. No factfinder may take the denial of a fact, find the denial not credible, and treat its credibility finding as evidence of the fact. Finally, the dissent attributes to us "a rather selective view of the facts." However, the dissent has not recited a single piece of evidence that would support a finding Baker requested an application for another voter. Under that circumstance, our standard of review requires we reverse.
ACTING JUSTICE HEARN: Because I believe election commissions are better equipped to determine an election's validity than this Court, and that evidence supports the factual findings here, I dissent. The McBee Municipal Election Commission ("Commission") invalidated the town's 2020 election after hearing from witnesses and determining their credibility. That decision was not made in a vacuum; rather, it was reached after a lengthy hearing which resulted in credibility determinations, together with substantial knowledge of Baker's relationship with Odom7 as well as the recent tortured history of municipal elections in McBee. Sitting in its appellate capacity, the circuit court determined there was "no evidence" to support the decision of the Commission and reversed. Under a rather selective view of the facts, the majority affirms the circuit court. I would honor our standard of review and reinstate the decision of the Commission.