I write this on the day before an election. Tomorrow is the day set aside for Republicans and Democrats to choose their nominees for the general election in November.
Only, this year there was a big monkey wrench tossed into the works and for a while there it didn’t look like there’d be an election at all. A case which originated in Lexington County came before the South Carolina Supreme Court. It alleged that not all candidates had been legally certified and should therefore be removed from the ballot.
The suit had been filed by some friends and former campaign workers of Senator Jake Knotts, Republican, of Lexington County. Why? Well, my guess is that ol’ Jakey thought he was about to take a whipping in the Republican Primary and wanted to avoid it….one way or another. He figured there was no way he could get more votes than his opponent so……..find a way to eliminate the opponent before the election.
The lawsuit centered on an act passed by the General Assembly in 1991 and entered into the South Carolina Code of Laws as Title Eight (Public Officers and Employees), Chapter Thirteen (Ethics, Government Accountability and Campaign Reform), Section 1356 (Filing of Statement of Economic Interest by Candidates for Public Office).
Nobody paid much attention to the legal action at first but the suit was on firm legal footing. That law plainly stated three things:
1. Each candidate must file a Statement of Economic Interest along with their Intention of Candidacy. Both forms must be filed with the same official and at the same time.
2. Party officials were expressly forbidden from accepting a candidate’s filing unless the filing was accompanied by the Statement of Economic Interest.
3. Incumbents were exempt. Since they are already public officials and they already have a requirement of an annual filing of a Statement of Economic Interest, they didn’t have to file it again.
The Supreme Court did what they had to do. They pointed out that the law was clear. And they pointed out that anyone who filed a Statement of Economic Interest on line was in violation of the statute. They did not file that statement with the same party official who accepted their candidacy filing.
Technology simpy outran legislation. The candidates were told to file on line because they were told to do so. Laurens County party leaders told them to because that’s what state party officials told THEM to do. And state party officials thought they were doing what the state wanted them to do.
And nobody checked to see if the law had been changed. It had not been. The Justices had no choice to make the decision they made. Add to that the decision by the Republican Party to try a sidestep maneuver that was characterized by one of the Justices as “creative but foolish” and we end up with candidates being removed from contention in the primary with less than a week before the polls opened.
The bottom line? It’s a mess. But it’s a one time mess……a temporary mess. Many of the candidates who were removed are working already to be included on the ballot in November with the petition process. If you’re asked, please sign their petition. They stuck their neck out and ran for office. It’s not their fault this happened. Sign it and give them the opportunity to be on the ballot in November. If you know you won’t be voting for them, sign it anyway. I think we all believe that voters should have a choice in November.
And don’t get disgusted by all of this and just drop out of the election process. No, go to the polls and vote for who you want. Who cares if it won’t be counted? You vote for who you want, now and in November.
Me……..I think I’ll move to Lexington County. I’d love the opportunity to vote for whoever ends up on the ballot opposite Jake Knotts.