It is possible that even more candidates could be taken off the ballot for next week’s primary.
The South Carolina Supreme Court will have to sort out how to deal with candidates who may not have qualified to run in next week’s primary, but were certified by the Florence Republican Party anyway. Sheila Gallagher, the chair of the Florence County Democratic Party is asking the court to declare those candidates improperly certified.
The court ruled in May that candidates must file financial paperwork at the same time they register, though one form is online and the other is not.
In the case argued Monday in front of the state’s highest court, the Republican rebuttal introduced a new twist. Since under the law, public officials have a later filing date than new candidates, attorney Kevin Hall says the statute (SC 8-13-1300) should be interpreted to mean that anyone considering running for office is a public official and therefore more candidates actually met the filing requirements.
That idea was not well received by Justice Don Beatty, who rebuked Hall. Beatty called the argument, “creative lawyering, frivolity, foolish” and said the attorney “insulted the court’s intelligence.”
Other justices, including Chief Justice Jean Toal, called it “creative” but said it opens up more problems. For instance, if Florence Republicans are allowed to run because they are now qualified as public officials, then almost 200 candidates who were disqualified could now sue to be added back to ballots statewide.
At one point in the arguments, an attorney for the plaintiff began to explain what state lawmakers “were thinking” when they updated the election law. Justice Toal interjected,”I don’t think they were thinking at all, and that’s the problem.”
Supreme Court justices wanted to hear more about how their decision could result in a remedy, since the primaries are next week. Attorneys for the county and state election commissions asked the court to order them to strike ineligible candidates from June 12 ballots, to disregard votes cast for those candidates, and order the parties to put up signs at polling places warning that certain candidates are ineligible.
Gallagher’s attorney Trey Cockrell wants to see more punitive action taken if the court rules his client’s way. “To affirmatively remedy the situation, they may have to put some teeth in their order.” He would like to see fines to make either party take the election law seriously.
Cockrell added, “There’s going to be a hiccup here either way…some backlash. But I think it’s going to be far greater if the court is to deny or reject our position.”
Florence GOP attorney Hall would not comment after the hearing.