By Paul Gable
It only took the S.C. Supreme Court one day to reach a unanimous decision that candidates who did not strictly follow state law with regard to filing candidacy forms may not be included on the party primary ballot or general election ballot this year.
The Supreme Court found as follows:
“ We grant declaratory relief as follows: (1) that individuals not exempt who are seeking nomination by political party primary to be a candidate for office must file a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) at the same time and with the same official with whom the individuals file a Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC); (2) that an official authorized to receive SICs may not accept the forms unless they are accompanied by an SEI; (3) that an individual who did not file an SEI at the same time and with the same official with whom the individual filed an SIC should not appear on the party primary election ballot or the general election ballot; and (4) that the Lexington County Democratic Party, the Lexington County Republican Party, the South Carolina Democratic Party, and the South Carolina Republican Party (political parties) unlawfully certified individuals seeking nomination by political party primary who did not file an SEI at the same time and with the same official with whom the individual filed an SIC. “
This means any non-incumbent who did not file the two forms at the same time and with the same official may not be certified as seeking nomination.
What remains unclear to me is the status of incumbents. They are declared exempt from the law if they have a “current” form on file. What is current? Is last year’s SEI considered current because incumbents had a deadline of April 15, 2012 to file for this year?
What of incumbents who did not file an SEI by the April 15th deadline, such as House Speaker Bobby Harrell who filed his SEI April 20, 2012, according to the S.C. Ethics Commission website?
Will Harrell be allowed to be a candidate and only have to pay a fine for his late filing? Would such a decision be equal application of the law?
These questions we consider to still be unanswered. However, a number of challengers statewide have been eliminated by the decision.
One other question is can the candidates who have been affected by this decision attempt to get the nomination of a recognized third party in the state? These parties nominate by convention, not primary election.
But, are these candidates precluded from even this move by the above wording in the decision that says they “should not appear on the party primary ballot or general election ballot”?
Or does this mean they only cannot appear as a candidate on the general election ballot only for the party with which they did not properly file?
While the Court decision eliminates many candidates, we feel not all the possibilities have been sufficiently addressed by the Court. There still seems to be large questions that may have to await another day in court before we know all the answers.
Of course, for those already eliminated, there is always a write-in campaign to be considered.