HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Mark Lazarus, who lost a close runoff last month to Johnny Gardner in the race for Horry County Council chair, said Tuesday he is appealing to the county’s Republican Party to count all absentee ballots from the election.

Unofficial results on election night showed Gardner, the incumbent chair, with 11,345 votes and Lazarus with 11,092.

The appeal by Lazarus stems from a mistake several days before the runoff that resulted in nearly 1,380 Democratic runoff election ballots accidentally being sent to the county’s Republican voters.

In a news release on Tuesday, Lazarus said that might have changed the outcome of the race and that the Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Board has since denied a request to certify the results until all of the ballots could be counted.

“The county election office was not aware of the error until Friday before Election Day, when
corrected ballots were mailed to 1,377 Republican voters,” he said. “Only 140 ballots were received by
Tuesday’s deadline to be counted.”

Lazarus said 183 ballots came back after the election.

“We do know is that 183 ballots came back in after the election, after 7 p.m. on Tuesday. State law says that if they come in after that period of time and they can’t be counted,” Lazarus said.

Republican voters had less than five days to get their corrected ballots in. Lazarus thinks this was too quick of a turn around.

“Some people may have been out of town,” Lazarus said. “There’s people that are homebound, there’s people that might have been sick, there’s people that, you know, whatever reason they weren’t able to vote.”

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.  

“If anyone had any doubts that election integrity was not an issue in this country, what happened
here in Horry County is a perfect example of what Donald Trump warned us about,” Lazarus
said in the news release. “Not only am I fighting for the disenfranchised voters in this election, but I will also fight to make sure what happened in this race does not ever occur again in future elections.

“We have the governor and congressional races coming up in November. And in just two short
years, South Carolina will once again host the Republican Party’s first significant presidential
primary. We cannot let this black cloud of disenfranchisement erode the integrity of our election
process in this state.

“My objective isn’t personal, and this may or may not prove determinative. The
goal is to ensure that the ballot of every voter who intended to vote absentee is counted. This
mistake must be fixed, now.”

Lazarus said he is asking through an appeal to go through the process as a new election.

His opponent, Johnny Gardner said 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. “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.”

Nesws13 has reached out to Director of Elections and Registration for Horry County, Sandy Martin, who said she would not comment on the situation.