Free Times of Columbia, South Carolina, Offers Detailed Explanation of South Carolina Ballot Access Mess

The Free Times from Columbia, South Carolina, has this very detailed explanation of this year’s ballot access problem in South Carolina, in which approximately 200 Republican and Democratic candidates for state and local office were kept off the June 12 primary ballot. This is the most detailed explanation known to have been published.

One comment

  1. Jim Riley · · Reply

    It’s kind of misleading on how the two conflicting laws came into place.

    Filing of a statement of economic interest (SEI) is required of a broad range of public officials and high-level employees. They are also required to be updated annually by April 15. The reason that incumbents don’t have to file when they declare their candidacy for re-election is that they already have a statement on file (the law says that anyone who has a statement on file, doesn’t have to file one with their candidacy, so there could be persons with a non-elected position who also wouldn’t need to file).

    In South Carolina, candidates file with a party officer, who then passes their application on to the state elections commission so they can be on the ballot (this is in the elections code). When the ethics filing provisions were added in the 1990s (this is in the code for public officials), they added a parallel provision, requiring that the candidate to file the SEI with the party official, who forwards a copy to the state ethics commission (or committee for legislative candidates). In essence, a person has to file an SEI *when* he becomes a candidate, and a person becomes a candidate *when* he files his declaration of candidacy.

    There is also a provision that says that a candidate who fails to file an SEI should be left off the ballot. This is *not* in the elections code, but in the ethics filing provisions in a different title of the code. So for 15 years or so, candidates have been handing two sheets of paper when they become candidates.

    In 2010, the legislature required all filings to be electronic, so that they could be easily searched, rather than having to go to Columbia and pull some paper out of a filing cabinet.

    So Sen.Knott presumably filed his latest SEI electronically. But apparently many candidates were told simply to file their SEI electronically (in many cases an SEI simply has a name, a phone number, and a string of N/A (eg they didn’t get money from the government). There also appears to be some confusion about the filing date. Since the annual filing date is April 15, but the end of candidacy filing was March 30, some candidates apparently got the impression from the ethics commission website that the deadline was later.

    In Florence County, the Republican candidates filed electronically when they handed their paperwork in, which is why the Florence County Democrats are upset because they had their candidates just file electronically at a later time.

    The Supreme Court made its decision as a simple statutory construction, that the old existing statute had not changed, and it did not matter that the new statute required everything to be filed electronically.

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