South Carolina's Democrats are gathering Thursday to decide whether to overturn the results of the primary election in which an unemployed, unknown military veteran won the nomination for U.S. Senate.
The state party's 92-member executive committee is meeting in Columbia to hear a protest by former state lawmaker Vic Rawl. Earlier this week, Rawl filed an official protest of the primary results, arguing that malfunctions in voting machines or software may have caused him to lose the June 8 Democratic primary to political unknown Alvin Greene.
Greene, 32, stunned the party establishment when he defeated Rawl in the primary to see who would face GOP U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, the heavy favorite in the fall.
Greene won with 59 percent of the vote to Rawl's 41 percent.
Rawl has asked the state Democratic Party for a new primary election based on flaws with the voting machines or software. In his protest, he cited voting irregularities including people who tried to vote for Rawl but whose ballots showed Greene's name checked instead.
The executive committee is expected to make its decision at the end of Thursday's hearing. The group could uphold the election, order a new primary or find that problems were so significant that Rawl should be declared the winner, according to the state party's executive director, Jay Parmley. State party leaders can't remember the committee ever overturning a statewide primary result.
Rawl doesn't have to prove malfunctions occurred to get a ruling in his favor, Parmley said. But the committee must consider the facts carefully because any decision it makes could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
"There is not anything in the law that says anything regarding the burden of proof," Parmley said. But: "It's not like we will say, 'We don't like the candidate,' so we will overturn the election."
Earlier this week, Greene told The Associated Press he would neither attend the hearing nor send a representative.
Greene's surprise victory spawned a number of queries into how the unemployed military veteran who lives with his father won the primary, despite raising no money and mounting no campaign.
A Republican state lawmaker has asked state police to investigate how Greene paid his filing fee of more than $10,000, after claiming indigence and being appointed a public defender to represent him in a court case. And a Washington-based watchdog group wants South Carolina's attorney general to investigate if someone had paid Greene to file for the office.
Greene has said he saved up for two years to pay the $10,440 candidate fee.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler asked Greene to withdraw after AP reported he was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student, then talking about going to her room at a university dorm. He has declined to comment on the charge, has yet to enter a plea or be indicted and says he's staying in the race.
Majority Whip Jim Clyburn also wants state and federal authorities to probe whether Greene was a plant for forces seeking to discredit South Carolina's Democrats.
For his part, Rawl has declined to speculate on whether fraud could have played a role in Greene's victory.
If the Democrats order a new election, it could take as much as a month to schedule because any new balloting must be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, Parmley said. Both parties must certify their candidates by Aug. 16 for the general election.
Associated Press Writer Susanne M. Schafer contributed to this report.