By Paul Gable
The fallout from the election filing mess continues as the General Assembly looks to overturn last week’s Supreme Court ruling with a joint resolution this week.
If successful, the resolution could put back on the ballot the nearly 200 candidates statewide who failed to file paperwork properly at filing.
The key wording in the resolution is:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding the provisions contained in Section 8-13-1356(E), any person whose name will not appear on the June 2012 primary election ballot pursuant to the Supreme Court holding in Michael Anderson and Robert Barger v. South Carolina Election Commission, et. al. (Appellate Case No. 2012-211366, Opinion No. 27120) may file a Statement of Economic Interests with the proper officials …
SECTION 2. Any person that files a Statement of Economic Interests pursuant to SECTION 1 is deemed to have met the candidate filing requirements contained in Section 8-13-1356(E) and his name may appear on the primary ballot provided that he has met all other requirements concerning ballot eligibility.
According to two of the legislation’s sponsors, Tracy Edge and Alan Clemmons, a plan is evolving whereby the currently scheduled June 12th Democratic and Republican primaries will be set back until August. How this will be accomplished is still up in the air as state law designates the second Tuesday in June as the date for party primary balloting.
Even if the legislation is successful at the state level, it will also need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to move forward. Timely DOJ approval is likely the biggest hurdle in the process.
From what we are hearing, if the bill passes in the legislature, filing will be reopened from 8 a.m. May 18 til 8 p.m. May 20 for candidates who were not certified in the March 16-30 filing period. Those candidates will only have to file their Statement of Economic Interests during the new filing period.
Another interesting twist in this ongoing filing saga, is the apparent contradiction in two Supreme Court decisions regarding disenfranchisement of voters.
Last week’s ruling was an extremely strict reading of state law on filing of the Statement of Intention of Candidacy and Statement of Economic Interests. Candidates who did not follow the letter of the law were not allowed to be certified for the primary ballot.
In 1999, however, the S.C. Supreme Court held in George v. The City Election Commission of Charleston that a fair election in which the voters were not disenfranchised was more important than the letter of the law. The important section of the ruling was:
“…provisions are merely directory even though the Legislature used seemingly mandatory terms such as “shall” or “must” in establishing the provisions. Courts justly consider the main purpose of such laws, namely, the obtaining of a fair election and an honest return, as paramount in importance to the minor requirements which prescribe the formal steps to reach that end, and, in order not to defeat the general design, are frequently led to ignore such innocent irregularities of election officers as are free of fraud, and have not interfered with a full and fair expression of the voter’s choice.”
The question from last week’s ruling is: are voters disenfranchised by the fact that challenger candidates were eliminated from the ballot prior to the voting, while incumbents, with different filing rules applying, were essentially given a pass? The obvious answer is yes.
The question with the proposed joint resolution is whether this disenfranchisement should be minimized by eleventh hour legislation.
This ongoing messy process only serves to make the state look worse and worse in the eyes of the voters.
Even reality TV isn’t this bad!