Who can vote in IL town referendum?

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Opponents say supporters post misinformation

By Reece Murphy

The ongoing dispute between Indian Land incorporation supporters and opponents flared again last week over social media posts opponents say were attempts to misinform eligible voters and intimidate financial supporters of the No Town effort ahead of the March 27 referendum.
Organizers of the incorporation effort say they can’t control what supporters say and argue opponents are trying to bully people who are practicing free speech.  
In the meantime, Lancaster County officials declined to weigh in on a complaint about the matter and county Elections Director Mary Ann Hudson said her office must stay focused on organizing the referendum and keeping rapidly changing voter rolls in the Van Wyck area updated.
The latest flare-up between the groups began the week of Feb. 19, No Town supporter Donna McClennen said, with Facebook posts by Tamara Dole, wife of Voters for a Town of Indian Land (VTIL) President Richard Dole, and two others asserting that only residents of Indian Land proper could vote in the referendum.
“I have a concern as to what actions cross from unscrupulous campaign tactics to actual voter intimidation and suppression,” McClennen wrote in an email to local elections officials and county attorney John Weaver.
“Voter suppression attempts to reduce the number of voters who might vote against the candidate or proposition advocated by the suppressors,” she said. “Does this not constitute voter suppression since their posts attempt to reduce the number of voters who might vote against their proposition?”
Another flashpoint, McClennen said, was a series of posts Feb. 22 on the VTIL-moderated Town of Indian Land Facebook group page by a well-known pro-incorporation agitator, Barry B. Baker.
Baker has earned a reputation as for “trolling,” due to insulting and abusive posts on Indian Land Facebook pages directed at No Town supporters.
In November, he posted what appeared to be a photograph of a folded newspaper called “The Gate.” The image depicted a portion of an article reporting victory for incorporation proponents that Baker said was “satire.” Opponents said it was an effort to trick casual news followers into thinking the vote already occurred.
Baker’s most recent post listed the names, donation amounts and, in some cases, the addresses and jobs of contributors to Citizens Against Indian Land Incorporation.
McClennen called Baker’s posts “doxing.”
Hacking-culture slang for “dropping documents,” doxing is the act of researching, gathering and posting private and/or identifiable information, publicly available or otherwise, according to several anti-cyberbullying sources.
Doxing is often used as a means of revenge for a perceived affront or “other nefarious reasons” with the intent to “shame, scare, blackmail, defame, bully or endanger the target.” The Cyberbullying Research Center says the power of doxing stems from making “the target fearful about how the information could potentially lead to their own victimization.”
S.C. Attorney General’s Office spokesman Robert Kittle said though not specifically illegal in South Carolina, doxing could be prosecuted under the state’s second-degree harassment and stalking laws, and possibly under its unlawful communication law, if it results in harm to the target.
“What possible purpose is served by pro-incorporation leaders allowing this post on the Facebook site they oversee?” McClennen asked in the letter. “Are they trying to possibly endanger them by posting their personal addresses on Facebook and making them vulnerable to some kind of retaliation for being against incorporation?
“Or worse yet, is this another attempt at voter intimidation/suppression by discouraging people from donating to the opposition since they can now expect to have their personal and business information blasted on this website?” she said. “I don’t know if this is illegal, but it is shameful, in my opinion, at a minimum.”
Unlike posts by two other Indian Land residents on the Concerned Citizens of Indian Land group Facebook Page, Tamara Dole’s post did not specifically say only residents of Indian Land proper, or those in the 29707 ZIP code, could vote.
“If you live in Van Wycke [sic] you cannot vote with us. You are not part of Indian Land,” Tamara Dole said in the post. “You are your own incorporated area. You have no say in how the people of Indian Land choose to move forward.
“In addition, I see quite a few people who live in Lancaster pretending to be part of the no vote. This is shysty and we’ve got your number,” she said, going on to note that she was referring to residents who listed themselves as living in Lancaster on their Facebook “About me” page.
In an interview Friday, Richard Dole defended his wife, saying she was simply calling out critics who lived in the newly incorporated town of Van Wyck, and that by Lancaster, she meant people living outside the Panhandle incorporation area in and around the city of Lancaster.
“They’re calling my wife, who’s an independent, highly educated person, they’re calling her stupid,” Dole said. “Why? In my opinion, if you can’t understand or debate the facts, you resort to name calling.
“She’s a citizen and to try to cyberbully her into not commenting any more is wrong,” he said. “I think all citizens are allowed to have free speech.”
VTIL Vice President of Operations Domenic Musco, a moderator on the Town of Indian Land Facebook page, said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that VTIL only stands by its own statements and positions. The opinions expressed by others are their own, he said, which can present a challenge to moderate, since “we can’t control their personal opinion.”
Musco said he was aware of the No Town donor list posts, but hadn’t thought of it as doxing since the information in the list consisted of readily available public information, nor as a source of concern over potential victimization among those listed.
“If these folks feel it’s damaging to them I have no problem taking it down … in fact, I just did,” Musco said.
But as of Monday morning, the lists remained posted.
County response
In an email to McClennen on Feb. 28, Lancaster County Attorney John Weaver said county government and elections officials would take no action on the matter.
“Lancaster County is not now involved, and will not become involved in the election tactics, strategies and activities of those involved in the incorporation vote,” Weaver wrote. “If you believe that a crime is being committed, you may contact the Sheriff’s Department. You may also contact the State Elections Commission in Columbia regarding intimidation and/or suppression.”
McClennen said she did as Weaver suggested and contacted Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile, whom she said told her he wasn’t sure the issues she brought up were matters he has the authority to address.
McClennen said she also contacted the S.C. Ethics Commission via email, but received only a stock email in response, outlining state law on campaign ethics and little else.
She said though she was disappointed no officials would step in, she’d be satisfied if the trouble-makers would just stop.
“What I hope comes out of it is that, No. 1, people would stop resorting to these kinds of tactics and stick to honest and fair information about their plan,” McClennen said. “And No. 2, I want it clarified who is eligible to vote. That is critical to the democratic process.”
Voter eligibility
Voting in the March 27 incorporation referendum is open to all registered voters living within the proposed town of Indian Land incorporation area – except residents of the new town of Van Wyck.
The proposed Indian Land incorporation area begins in the north at the state line and runs from the York County line to the state line south to S.C. 5 (Rock Hill Highway) bypassing and surrounding properties that are part of incorporated Van Wyck.
The Indian Land incorporation area then continues south along the east side of U.S. 521 to the state line for about a half mile then continues along the east side of East North Corner Road for another mile, ending in a point at the historic boundary stone marking the right angle turn in the state line.
Though most eligible voters live in Indian Land’s 29707 ZIP code area, there are about 5,000 eligible voters in the Lancaster 29720 ZIP code, Elections Director Mary Ann Hudson said, and “a handful” of Van Wyck post office box holders with 29744 ZIP codes.
Most eligible Panhandle voters who live south of Jim Wilson and Van Wyck roads, all the way to East North Corner Road, have Lancaster addresses, with 29720 ZIP codes. A significant number of those voters live in the Belair, Millstone, Tree Tops and Walnut Creek neighborhoods. According to the ZIP code map, even some who live in Sun City Carolina Lakes have Lancaster ZIP codes.
“There are eligible voters in every Panhandle precinct, even the Van Wyck and Gold Hill precincts in Van Wyck,” Hudson said.
With property owners in the Van Wyck area voluntarily annexing into the town to avoid the possibility of being incorporated by Indian Land, the incorporated boundary of Van Wyck is growing and changing with each council meeting.
Van Wyck was expected to grow to three times its pre-incorporation size at town council meeting Monday, March 5, with second reading of an ordinance annexing another 800 acres.
Hudson said her office receives weekly updates on the most recent Van Wyck annexations from the county’s GIS department, which tracks the changes down to the property parcel number and street. Hudson’s office then uses the detailed information to update the referendum’s eligible voter rolls.
Van Wyck Mayor Sean Corcoran has asked Van Wyck-area property owners interested in joining the town to have their annexation applications in by March 12 to allow two readings of the annexation ordinance before the March 27 Indian Land incorporation vote. Hudson said her staff can update the voter rolls for late annexations by hand up until the night before the vote, if needed.
“The day of the election, we would basically have to send a list that says these are the voters who have annexed in,” Hudson said of the late annexations. “If the residents came in to vote, we would probably ask them to vote a provisional ballot, and of course, if they’re in the (Van Wyck) municipality, their vote would not be counted.”