From the Court Room to the Living Room

By Paul Gable

Election ballot issues shifted from the court room to the living room Monday when a federal three judge panel threw out the lawsuit challenging the continuing candidate certification issues for upcoming Republican and Democratic primaries throughout the state.

The complaint said military personnel serving overseas should have 45 days before the election to receive, fill out and return their ballots. Absentee ballots for federal elections, Congressional races this year, were sent 45 days prior to the election, according to the S.C. Election Commission.

A separate ballot, containing names for state and local candidates was sent later, after the S.C. Supreme Court decision eliminated nearly 200 candidates from certification two weeks ago. The complaint argued the splitting of the ballots was illegal under election law.

The Election Commission argued the 45 day rule only applied to federal elections, which was met, and that the state had split ballots in prior elections due to the necessity of certifying state and local candidates later than federal candidates.

The federal lawsuit was always an extreme longshot in the attempt to get non-certified candidates back on the ballot. Its dismissal has to be considered the end of any reasonable court challenges candidates on the ballot for the upcoming June 12th primary elections.

Focus of the continuing effort to get eliminated candidates back on the ballot shifted to petitions Monday.

Six meetings were held throughout the state under the RINO Hunt banner with the name Operation Lost Vote. The meetings included a number of local groups who say they will band together to help petition candidates get on the ballot in November.

The meeting in Horry County was attended by approximately 30 people with at least six of those being eliminated candidates. It included representatives from the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, Carolina Patriots, South Strand Republican Club and Myrtle Beach Republican Women.

While RINO Hunt and the Tea Party movement have been billed as grassroots efforts to challenge the political establishment in South Carolina and other states across the nation, at least in Horry County Operation Lost Vote may be bringing those groups together.

The Myrtle Beach Tea Party and the Carolina Patriots very much fit the mold of grassroots insurgent organizations while the South Strand Republican Club and the Myrtle Beach Republican Women are very much in the mainstream.

The six candidates who attended the meeting in Carolina Forest Monday were Patrick Boulter, Mike Ryhal, Mike Connett, Bill Weigand, Mary Henry and Camille Noonan. All were eliminated from the ballot for the upcoming Republican Party primary for not filing properly, in accordance with the S.C. Supreme Court ruling.

In an interview after the meeting, Henry called for the U.S. Department of Justice to come into South Carolina to investigate the entire filing controversy.

Isn’t there a massive amount of irony in a purported South Carolina Republican in good standing calling for Obama’s Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, to come into the state and investigate an election controversy?

Now facing an uphill battle to get on the ballot by petition, it will be interesting to watch how effective the Operation Lost Vote movement will be.

Petition candidates must submit a petition to the Horry County Election Commission by July 15, 2012, signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters of the district in which they intend to run. The election commission then has 30 days to verify the signatures and certify the candidate.

Their attempt to get on the ballot will now be a face-to-face, one-on-one effort. The change in district lines from the recent reapportionment will only add to the confusion.

One other interesting sidelight has emerged in the election controversy. We hear a protest was filed against Sen. Jakie Knotts, whom some blame for starting the whole candidate certification mess, for challenging a former Republican Party official to a duel. Dueling is forbidden by the South Carolina Constitution.

The protest, filed by former Knotts’ opponent Katrina Shealy who was not certified as a candidate, was an attempt to have Knotts removed from the ballot for violating the state constitution, but was denied.

And all this time we thought it was incumbent for every member of the General Assembly to violate the state constitution in order to be a member in good standing of that institution!

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