The South Carolina Republican Party said Monday it will not cover the costs of the state’s GOP presidential primary next month, leaving the event’s funding up in the air.
The party had previously arranged to split the costs with the State Elections Commission, before four counties sued— arguing that local governments should not have to pay for one party’s primary. While the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in the state and the Republican Party’s favor, SCGOP Executive Director Matt Moore said the ruling last month made it clear that only the state and counties could actually pay to run the primary.
“The ruling was a game changer, making it clear that only the state and counties can be involved in running the primary,” Moore said in an interview, “The state GOP, we contend, cannot be involved.”
The party says it has paid the Elections Commission $180,000 in candidate filing fees, which state law does allow.
Moore said the Supreme Court made it clear that only the state can run statewide elections and that a third party cannot help finance the primary, which should be treated as any other election.
“So what the court said, if you listen to the hearings, is that these kinds of elections deserve the same kind of protections as the regular primaries that we have every two years, as well as the elections every four years for governor,” Moore argued.
Under the previous agreement, the commission would have used about $680,000 towards the 2012 primary, while the SCGOP would have covered the rest of the tab (expected to be about $800,000).
The Elections Commission will likely struggle to come up with the additional money. The primary is expected to cost the state about $1.5 million, while the agency only has about $1 million cash on hand. Federal law also would likely not allow the state to scale back on the primary with less than a month to go before the election (by combining precincts or switching to paper ballots, for example).
Moore said legislators have indicated they will try change the law next year, but “the fact is that the Supreme Court has clearly said that this election deserves every protection as the other elections. I suspect any changes to state law will reflect that.”
An attorney representing several counties that sued the GOP says the party that portrays itself as fiscally responsible is reneging on a promise.