Ruling Leaves More Primary Candidates in Doubt
A second S.C. Supreme Court ruling has kicked more candidates off ballots across the state
The South Carolina Supreme Court threw more candidates off of ballots across the state Tuesday when it ruled the Florence County Republican Party had not complied with its earlier ruling removing nearly 200 candidates from ballots.
And now party leaders and election officials across the state are scrambling to understand the impact.
In Charleston County, Democrat Carol Tempel was initially certified by the county party following the initial court ruling, but following Tuesday's decision, Tempel announced she was droping out of the race for S.C. House District 115.
"The Supreme Court could not have been more clear in their ruling yesterday. If candidates did not file properly, they should not be on the ballot. I accept full responsibility and thus will forgo seeking the Democratic nomination for House District 115. While the opportunity of serving the people of Charleston County is still on the table, I had to respect yesterday's ruling and uphold the rule of law. I call on other candidates in Charleston County to follow my lead and do the right thing. If you did not file properly, do not risk being held in contempt of court by stubbornly trying to remain on the ballot. I look forward to fellow James Island resident Paul Thurmond and all other candidates in Charleston County who did not file properly to respect the law and immediately withdraw from the race. "
Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Richard Hricik said was proud of Tempel for doing the right thing.
"Candidates know whether or not they printed out that piece of paper and Carol knew she didn't and she did the right thing by withdrawing," Hricik said.
Charleston County GOP Chair Lin Bennet was not immediately available Wednesday for commment, nor was Thurmond.
However Thurmond apparently did tell Columbia Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins that he did not file a paper copy of his Statement of Economic Interest, according to Hutchins' Twitter feed.
In Oconee County the Republican Party has cancelled its entire primary as every candidate was knocked off the ballot by the Court's decision.
Greenville County Registration and Elections Director Conway Belangia said that no candidates from either party were removed from the ballot today as a result of the court's decision. But he did say that the Greenville County GOP advised him there is a possibility candidates still could be bumped.
The Court's original ruling centers on a state law that says candidates must file a paper copy of their SEI forms at the same time they file for candidacy. That decision cast nearly 200 candidates off the ballot.
SEI forms are filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission, and the Ethics Commission now requires candidates file their SEI forms electronically. However state law still requires a paper copy be filed, and many candidates did not print a copy of their SEI when they filed it online. Candidates for office who are currently elected officials are exempted from that requirement under the public official exemption in the law.
Tuesday's decision centered on that public official exemption, which allows incumbent candidates to skip the requirement to file a paper copy of their SEI at the same time they file to run for office, because as an elected official they are already required to have a current SEI on file. The same statute does include candidates for office in the definition of the term public official, and the Florence County GOP contended that since their candidates filed an SEI before filing to run for office, they had a current SEI on file and as a candidate for office were considered public officials, then they therefore met the requirements of the public official exemption and did not need to file a paper copy of their SEIs as otherwise required by the law. The Court disagreed.
The new decision has left both parties scrambling to figure out if all of the candidates that they initially certified as having filed all of their paperwork correctly did in fact file properly.
South Carolina GOP Chair Chad Connelly issued the following statement after the ruling was announced:
"Today's Supreme Court decision is extremely disappointing. This is a sad day for South Carolina voters.
"It's tragic that good citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, attempted to file as candidates, only to have their names tossed out over a technicality.
"The Supreme Court has injected itself into the political parties' once exclusive right to choose their candidates. Instead of seeing the law as the legislature intended, the court created a "Frankenstein" - a set of hypertechnical rules that defy common sense and ignore the instructions of the state's own Ethics Commission (below). In the process, the court has disenfranchised thousands of South Carolina voters."
Blame has fallen on the S.C. Ethics Commission which had published incorrect filing information on its website including that the SEI forms must be filed online after filing as a candidate and that paper copies of the SEI forms are no longer accepted, according to Connelly's statement.