HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Horry County GOP rejected an appeal Thursday night from Mark Lazarus over the election results after he narrowly lost to incumbent Horry County Council Chair Johnny Gardner.

Lazarus filed an official challenge to the results, according to the Horry County GOP.

The appeal came after 1,377 Horry County republicans mistakenly received democratic ballots in the mail. Lazarus said only 140 of the ballots were returned on time to be counted, and another 183 were returned after the deadline.

During opening statements, Jarrett Bouchette, attorney for Gardner, said the deadline for submitting a protest was the first Monday after an election, which would’ve been July 4. The appeal was filed July 5.

“There is no expressed outline that would substitute day or have it fall based on holidays or weekends or anything of that nature,” Bouchette said.

Butch Bowers, the attorney for Lazarus, said his client filed the appeal in a timely fashion.

“I’d say let’s move to merits of the case and not some 1962 statute where we’re trying to figure out what’s what,” he said.

Based on the deadline, the committee made a motion to end the hearing and block the appeal. 40 executive committee members voted in favor, five voted against, and two abstained.

“Just ashamed that the case that we were going to present today was not about me,” Lazarus said. “This was about 1,377 votes that were not properly counted and the 1,377 disenfranchised people didn’t have their voice heard again today.”

Gardner said he felt the law was upheld and said assuming 1,300 people were waiting on ballots is speculative.

“If you request an absentee ballot for the primary and if there’s a runoff you automatically get mailed one,” Gardner said. “Although you might not be planning on voting absentee, you may not be planning on voting at all, you may be planning on voting in person.”      

Unofficial results on runoff election night showed Gardner with 11,345 votes and Lazarus with 11,092 — a difference of 253 votes.

Lazarus claimed the voters who were mailed the wrong ballots didn’t have enough time to send in the corrected ballots.

Lazarus, who was the council chair between 2013 and 2018, defeated Gardner by a wide margin — 18,296 to 11,989 — in the June 14 Republican primary, but the margin was not enough to avoid a runoff election.  

Gardner previously told News13 that Lazarus had no objections about the way the ballot mix-up was handled prior to Election Day.

“I don’t know what Mr. Lazarus’ end game is, other than overturning an election that he didn’t like the results of,” Gardner said previously. “The law that’s in place which will not allow the opening of absentee ballots after 7 p.m. on Election Day was put in place to protect the integrity of elections.”

The next course of action for Lazarus would be to take up the issue with the state GOP executive committee. Lazarus said he plans to look at all of his legal options.

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