This letter is written in response to your article "Lee's Sumter school board win cleared" dated Nov. 17, 2020. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the Sumter County Election Commission, Sumter County Voter Registration Office and the Item do not fully understand the nature of my election protest. As Commissioner Brunson indicated, my protest did not allege voter fraud or any wrongdoing on the part of staff during the election process. Nor did my protest focus on straight-party ticket voting.
My protest focused on the precincts of District 6 and the 909 difference in total votes cast in the mayoral and school board elections in those precincts. What this meant to me was that almost 20% of the registered voters of District 6 that voted in the mayoral races decided to not vote in a contested school board election, and I found that concerning. Why would they choose not to vote in the school board election? Were there any impediments or restrictions to them participating in that election? I thought the election commission would be concerned and look into the possible impediments. However, I was told that many people vote straight tickets and elect not to vote in other races.
This was not the focus of my petition. My petition focused solely on the votes cast in the mayoral and school board races, which are not a part of the straight-party ticket vote. As for straight-party ticket voting, I am an opponent and think this voting practice contributes to our political party polarization.
Considering that we do allow straight-party ticket voting, I think the election commission should become more involved in voter education. One way to do this is publish ballots before the elections and explain the extenuating circumstances such as straight-party ticket voting and down-ballot races that require a vote to be cast to be counted.
Having said that, congratulations to Ms. Lee on her win. In the future, I encourage all voters to participate in our school board elections. When so many don't, it does cause suspicions!
WILLIAM LEVAN BYRD, CPA, CMA, CGMA, MBA
Former candidate, Sumter School Board of Trustees
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