Supreme Court to Hear Election Filing Case

By Paul Gable

The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by two Lexington County voters claiming several candidates did not properly file for office.

At issue is the Statement of Economic Interests which candidates were required to submit when they filed for office. The deadline for filing was noon March 30, 2012.

South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-13-1356 (B) states, “A candidate must file a statement of economic interests for the preceding calendar year at the same time and with the same official with whom the candidate files a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination.”

While the lawsuit was filed by Lexington County voters, attorneys for the plaintiffs requested the S.C. Supreme Court to take original jurisdiction in the case. The Court agreed with justices setting May 1, 2012 for oral arguments.

Original jurisdiction will allow the Supreme Court justices the necessary latitude to issue a broad ruling that will affect all candidates statewide if they so desire. Such a ruling will probably be necessary because the problem extends beyond Lexington County.

The same problem exists with at least 15 Republican candidates who filed for state or local offices in Horry County. The candidates either filed the Statement of Economic Interests after the deadline or not at all.

The candidates and the seat they filed for are:

House District 105: Liz Gilland, Kevin Hardee, Mike Conteff, Bill Weigand

House District 58: Michael Ryhal

House District 68: Thomas Muse

House District 104: Gary Stephens

Horry County Council District Three: Lex Gardner, Keith Van Winkle

Horry County Council District Four: Chris Burroughs

Horry County Council District Six: Marvin Heyd

Horry County Council District Nine: Patrick Boulter

Horry County School Board District Five: Camille Noonan

Horry County School Board District Eleven: Levon Martin, Jeffrey Garland

It is expected the Supreme Court ruling will be comprehensive enough to settle the issue statewide, which could directly impact the above candidates.

Grand Strand Daily has learned Republican Party officials have been telling local candidates who missed the deadline to go forward with their fund raising and other campaign activities as planned. That could now change depending on the Court’s ruling.

However, the May 1st date for hearing oral arguments could cause other problems. Chief Justice Jean Toal ordered the S.C. Election Commission not to send out any ballots that could be affected by the lawsuit. This will make it very difficult to get absentee ballots printed, sent and received back by the June 12, 2012 primary date, especially to voters out of the country.

Depending on how long the court takes to issue a decision on the case, and how comprehensive that decision is, it could affect the June 12th primary date, which is set forth in state statutes.

At issue is should candidates who did not follow the law be allowed on the ballot? We can’t wait to see the decision.