Annexing With the 25% Petition and Election Method

The 25% petition and election method of annexation, described in SC Code Section 5-3-300, begins with a petition signed by 25% of the qualified electors of an area proposed for annexation. These are people who are residents of the area and who are eligible to vote. The requirement differs from the petition requirements of the 100% method and the 75% method, both of which require a percentage of property owners, not qualified electors. As with other methods of annexation, the area under consideration must be contiguous to existing municipal boundaries. 

A 25% petition form can be found in the Municipal Association’s Annexation HandbookThe form features information and fields to include as required by law:
  • A statement of the section of state law, SC Code Section 5-3-300, under which the petitioners are seeking annexation. 
  • A description and plat of the area to be annexed. The sample form recommends including the county tax map numbers as well, although this is not required.
  • The signature and residential address of each qualified elector.
  • State law allows for any property owner owning at least 25% of the assessed property value in the area to opt-out of consideration for annexation. Property owners owning 10 acres of agricultural property in the area may also opt-out.
Once the city or town council determines that enough qualified electors have signed, it certifies this by passing a resolution and providing it to the county election commission.

The commission orders an election in the area under consideration, giving notice by newspaper 30 days in advance and using election boxes in the area. The qualified electors living in the area who are registered to vote are eligible to participate in the election. If a majority of voters vote in favor of annexation, the election commission must then certify the results. 

The city or town council must publish the results of any election that voted in favor of annexation using a written resolution, and publish in a newspaper of general circulation information about the next steps in the process. The notice must describe the area to be annexed. It must make note that it will take place under SC Code Section 5-3-300, and must state that the qualified electors voted to be annexed.

The statement must also describe a process where electors who already reside within the municipality can petition to stop the annexation. The statement should indicate that the council will approve the annexation unless it receives a petition signed by at least 5% of current electors within the municipality. If no such petition occurs, the council can complete the annexation by enacting an ordinance 30 days after the notice. If a petition does occur, council must delay the final reading of the annexation ordinance until the city or town conducts an election inside the municipal boundaries. If current municipal voters vote against the annexation, it prevents any further elections for the area under consideration for at least two years. 

For all annexations, state law requires municipalities to notify four entities: the Secretary of State, the SC Department of Transportation, SC Department of Public Safety, and the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, which uses the information to draw lines for election districts and to determine Local Government Fund disbursements.

This article is the fourth and final in a series on the three methods of annexation allowed in South Carolina law. Find the previous installments in the April, May and June 2021 Uptown editions.