Losing State House Candidate, CJ Pearson, Wants Recount

You can learn a lot about how a person would govern if they were to win an election by how they handle losing an election. I know that may seem counterintuitive, but stay with me.

News Channel 6 WJBF out of Augusta is reporting that losing candidate for State House District 125, CJ Pearson, wants a hand recount of the ballots in the election that saw Former County Commissioner Gary Richardson win on election day.

So let me present the facts before wading into my opinion on the matter.

  • Rep Elect Richardson won his runoff election against Pearson this past Tuesday by over 20 points.
  • 6499 Ballots were cast, with 3,911 for Richardson and 2,588 for Pearson.
  • Pearson received 2009 votes on Election Day, 11 via absentee, and 568 in advanced voting.
  • Richardson received 2713 votes on Election Day, 35 via absentee, and 1,163 in advance voting.
  • On election day there were poll pad issues that caused roughly 40 voters to have to vote with hand marked paper ballots. – more on that below.
  • Those issues were resolved by 8:00 AM so that it did not impact the other roughly 5,800 voters who cast their ballots in person.
  • A hand recount would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and delay certification, causing the 125th District to be without a Representative for the bulk of what remains of the 2024 Legislative Session

The roughly 40 or so voters who arrived at their voting precinct before 8 AM found that the polling pads had been set up for only the Presidential Preference Primary and did not include the State House runoff. Poll pads are the device that checks voters in so that they are given the correct ballot. The State House precincts for House District 125 were supposed to have separate dedicated poll pads for the runoff, but that detail had been overlooked which caused the need for those 40 or so voters to vote by emergency hand marked ballots. Everyone who wanted to vote was given the opportunity to do so and no one was turned away.

Poll pads have nothing to do with the actual tabulation of votes, only with the voter check in procedure. They are used to verify the voter’s identification and the eligibility of voters for that election in that precinct. Once eligibility has been verified, the voter is given their card to activate the appropriate ballot on their ballot marking devices.

As a result of the poll pad issue the County Board of Commissioners had indicated they would like to see a hand count of the ballots cast, however that is not in accordance with state law. State law allows for a recount in the event that the margin of victory is within .5 percentage points. Again, in this case, Pearson lost by over 20 points, or in the common vernacular, a landslide.

WJBF quotes Pearson as saying, “I think it’s important that this re-count happens. The board of commissioners came together and said that this needed to occur, and for the board of elections to disregard that completely, I think it’s unsettling.”

One Pearson supporter, Ashley Lee, cast doubts on the entire election telling WJBF, “When there’s so many anomalies that happen, it’s just off. Something’s off about it, why is that? Why are there so many questions and they can’t restore our confidence?”

Allow me to answer Lee’s question before getting back to my original point. The anomaly she is referring to impacted roughly 40 voters in a race that had a margin of victory of over 1,300 votes. Even if all 40 of those votes, which is highly unlikely, went to Pearson the margin of victory would still be just shy of 1,300 votes. Forty votes is not enough to change the result and it should not be enough for anyone to call the result into question.

And this is where my original point comes in. I believe one of the best traits of a state legislator is the ability to form their opinions and stances on matters based on the evidence. Not everyone has that ability in their skill set, and Pearson is exhibiting a lack of it. If the margin had been tighter or there had been a massive amount of anomalies Pearson would be well within his rights to ask for a greater amount of scrutiny in the tabulation of his election loss. But with the anomaly only impacting 40 or so voters and a margin of victory over 1,300, all he is doing is actively and willfully contributing to the unnecessary erosion of confidence in our elections.

It would be better to take the L, which he earned, and promise to work harder next time. Thanks to his landslide defeat, however, we now know that CJ Pearson has exhibited that he is not a person who makes evidence based decisions. But a grifter gotta grift, regardless of the consequences to the rest of us.

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