July 28, 2015

Senate tries to fast-track legislative fix to restore candidates to ballot

Knotts blamed senators for "grandstanding"

State senators are trying to both create and fast-track a bill to allow candidates a second chance to get on the primary ballot.  Last week, a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling disqualified 183 people from races because they did not file economic statements on time.

The problem, say local and state party leaders, is that both online directions and party instructions confused new candidates. Another complaint is that incumbents were simply fined for filing late, while new candidates were blocked from running.

Senate leaders are trying to remedy that by drastically amending an existing House bill (H.3392) with S. 1512 and setting up the process to get the measure passed, sent to the House, signed into law and to the Justice Department for its inspection.

Senator Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) is leading the effort, along with Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin (R-Pickens). Their amendment would change the statute to set the same deadlines for incumbents and candidates. The bill would set up an amnesty date of May 18 for all candidates to refile.

Their first attempt failed in an emergency session of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After two hours of struggling over language, Senator Jake Knotts blocked the bill and offered his own to streamline how filings are done across the state. The panel discussed that it was a good idea, but too sweeping to move quickly.

“We need is a rifle shot (bill) to fix this,” observed committee member Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort).

Judiciary leaders are now trying another tactic: supplant the House bill with the Campsen-Martin version. The Senate will devote Wednesday to that effort, even suspending the rules to make it easier.

York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall observed the morning’s committee meeting, hoping for a solution for  candidates in his area who were given different dates by party and elections officials.  McCall says he left the meeting “not feeling confident”  that the Senate can correct the matter quickly, so he agrees with Democratic Senator Vincent Sheheen that the best chance will be to join in a federal lawsuit filed against the State Election Commission for delay caused in mailing out absentee ballots. The suit also claims the State Supreme Court ruling violates the federal Voting Rights law.

 “If we don’t join in the federal lawsuit, then nothing’s going to happen and that’s just reality,” Sheheen told the panel.

 Federal Judge Cameron Currie has agreed to hear the case in Columbia Thursday.


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