The Aiken County Board of Registration and Elections voted unanimously Monday morning to uphold the results of the mayoral election that took place Nov. 5 in Salley.
In addition, the board also let stand the results of the election for Seat 4 on Salley’s town council that happened on the same date.
All nine members of the board were present for the two hearings, which were held in Aiken County Council Chambers at the Aiken County Government Center.
Board Chairwoman Kay McIver did not vote. She only would have acted in the case of a tie.
“With the evidence that was presented and the witness testimony, the decisions that the board made were fair to the candidates,” McIver said after the hearings.
Incumbent Nathan R. “Bob” Salley contested the result of the mayoral election.
LaDonna Hall won the race, with 44 write-in votes. Salley, who was the only candidate to file to run for mayor, received 38.
In his protest filed with the county’s Registration and Elections office, Salley claimed that “four people were denied the right to vote, the father of one of the candidates was sitting right next to the poll manager” and “two candidates were in the immediate vicinity of the polling place and had no identification on their person.”
Leah Shackleford contested the outcome of the town council Seat 4 election.
Sandra Hicks Brown was the winner with 49 votes. Shackleford received 45.
There were five votes for Hall, who filed to run for Seat 4, but said she “decided kind of at the last minute” to launch a “door-to-door” campaign as a write-in candidate for mayor.
In addition, there was one write-in vote in the Seat 4 election.
The complaints filed by Shackleford with the Registration and Elections Office included voters being turned away and not allowed to vote “due to their driver’s license not scanning.”
Shackleford also wrote in her protest document that while casting her ballot, a “poll worker stood beside me, then behind me to observe who I voted for.”
Then, Shackleford stated, another poll worker took her ballot from her and inserted it into the ballot scanner and vote tabulator machine instead of letting Shackleford do it herself.
Shackleford wrote that it “appeared” that the ballot was inserted “incorrectly” into the machine.
In addition, Shackleford stated that the “voting box” she used “was open for everyone to view without any shields.”
Among Shackleford’s other allegations was that a candidate’s father “sat at the table with the poll workers as they checked voter registrations and handed out ballots.”
Christian Spradley of the Moore Taylor Law Firm, which has offices in West Columbia and Saluda, represented Hall and Brown during their respective hearings.
Salley, 92, has served as the town of Salley’s mayor for more than 20 years. He first was elected to the position in 1994.
During his hearing, Salley called one of his children as a witness, Paul Salley, who is a town councilman.
Paul Salley showed a copy of a photograph that he had taken of a candidate’s father sitting at a table with a poll official.
Bob Salley also asked S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, to speak, but Taylor said afterward he declined because he had “no personal firsthand information” about the election.
Shackleford called several witnesses, including Paul Salley.
Spradley questioned the witnesses and Shackleford about their voting experiences. All said they weren’t prevented from voting for the person or persons they wanted to elect even though they had concerns.
On behalf of both Hall and Brown, Spradley called poll clerk Bobby Williams as a witness. Williams said nobody registered any complaints with him about anything that happened at the polling place the day of the elections.
Another witness, who was a poll worker, said she helped voters insert their ballots into the ballot scanner and vote tabulator machine but did so only if they asked her for assistance or seemed to be having trouble.
After the hearings, Spradley said he wasn’t surprised by the board’s decisions in favor of his clients.
“I felt that was what was going to happen when we came over here,” Spradley said. “It is a great thing when you have more people that want to serve (than the number of positions that are available). There are so many communities that don’t have anybody that wants to serve, so this was a great problem to have. Everybody had a right to be heard. We were just trying to make sure that what the voters said was what was heard the loudest.
“Nobody was intimidated and nobody was made to change their votes,” Spradley added. “The votes that were cast were the proper votes. It’s about the voters having their say.”
Bob Salley, a 92-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran, expressed disappointment with the board’s decision concerning his election’s result.
“I naturally don’t agree with it,” Salley said. “If she (Hall) had filed (for mayor) to start with, it would have been an entirely different turnout. People are going to have to live with it. That’s all that I can say.”
After the hearings were over , Salley approached Hall and shook her hand.
“Best to you,” he said.
“Thank you, Mr. Bob,” Hall replied.
“You’ve got about four hats you’ve got to wear (as mayor),” Salley told her.
“I understand that, and I’m ready to wear them all at once,” Hall said. “I’m going to see if I can fit in your shoes.”
Hall told the Aiken Standard she was happy that the hearing process was over with and a decision had been made.
“It’s a relief,” she said. “I’m extremely glad that everything has been worked out. I am glad that I will be able to work on behalf of the town and all of the voters who came out for me. They came out for me, and I came out for them today as well.”
In an interview last week with the Aiken Standard, Hall said she worked as a chief financial officer for a company in Aiken.
Brown talked about her eagerness to serve on town council.
“I’m ready to get started,” she said. “I’m glad this process is done, and now we can move forward and get to work for the town and the citizens.”