A Sumter City Council seat will remain empty possibly until the new year because of an appeal filed to the circuit court.
During a Sumter City Council meeting on Tuesday, Mayor David Merchant shared with those in attendance that a new council member would usually be present for the first meeting of December.
“This would typically be the meeting where we would have a new council person, but right now we still have a councilman-elect, Anthony Gibson, while that process is being worked out,” Merchant said. “There’s some appeals.”
After the Sumter County Voter Registration and Election Commission unanimously denied Reginald “Reggie” Evans’ protests of the recent local election in two races — Sumter school board District 9 and Sumter City Council Ward 1 — for lack of evidence to his claims on Nov. 21, he filed an appeal the following day with the Sumter County Third Judicial Circuit.
Circuit court is the proper channel where municipal election appeals are filed, according to state law and statutes.
The day that the appeal was recorded with Sumter County Clerk of Court Jamie Campbell — Nov. 22 — was the same day as the runoff for Sumter City Council Ward 1.
Gibson, who won the Ward 1 runoff against challenger Joe Brown, will now have to wait until the appeal is heard in a trial court before he can take the seat. However, Campbell confirmed that it might not be until January until the appeal is tried.
“I trust the system. I’ll wait until everything works itself out,” Gibson said in response. “I trust the process.”
Danny Crowe, general counsel for the City of Sumter, confirmed Thursday that he will contest the appeal in the name of the county election commission — which administers elections for the city — in order to get Gibson seated on council.
The city council seat will be Gibson’s first time holding public office. His swearing-in ceremony is on hold until the election results are certified after the appeal.
“As soon as they can certify the election, they will ask for a special meeting of council just to receive those numbers,” City Manager Deron McCormick said. “As soon as that happens, we will move forward with the swearing in.”
Evans’ appeal documentation is brief and only says that he appeals the decision of the election commission. He represented himself in the protest.
It does not appear that Evans’ school board District 9 race against Bonnie Disney will go through an appeal process, though, after an initial review by The Sumter Item, because state statute requires an appeal of that nature to go through the South Carolina Election Commission, based in Columbia. A deadline for such an appeal would have been Nov. 28.
As of Thursday, Pat Jefferson, executive director of the Sumter County Voter Registration and Elections Office, said she had not received any notification of an appeal for that race.
Efforts to reach Evans on Thursday were unsuccessful.
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