The Florence County Republican Party will have to pull some of its candidates out of next week’s primary race.
The state’s highest court quickly turned around a unanimous decision after arguments yesterday that some GOP candidates were improperly certified by the party, defying a recent court order that financial statements be filed at the same time as candidacy forms.
Attorneys for the Republican party tried to redefine “public figure” as anyone who considered running for office, in an attempt to exempt the candidates from the court’s orders.
In the justices’ opinion, “To construe the statutes in the manner suggested by the County Republicans would render (the election law) § 8-13-1356, meaningless.”
In the order issued Tuesday, the court adopted the remedy offered by the local and state election commissions:
We direct the County Republicans to file with this Court, the Florence County Election Commission, and the South Carolina State Election Commission, by 10:00 a.m. on June 6, 2012, a list of only those non-exempt candidates who simultaneously filed an SEI and an SIC with the County Republicans and a sworn statement that all of those candidates were properly certified as defined by the Court in Anderson and in this case. If the Florence County Election Commission is able to correct the ballots to remove all improperly certified candidates prior to the party primaries scheduled for June 12, 2012, it shall do so. If this task is not possible, signs shall be prepared and placed in all affected polling places setting forth the names of all improperly certified candidates who appear on the ballots and advising voters that a vote cast for any of the candidates will not be counted. All costs and expenses associated with amendments to the ballots or, if required, preparation and posting of signs shall be borne by the County Republicans. The Florence County Election Commission is directed not to count any votes cast for an improperly certified candidate. In the event an improperly certified candidate is inadvertently left on the ballot after the required revisions, the political parties shall comply with § 8-13-1356(E) and shall not certify the candidate for the general election.
Because this is a Florence County case, the justices denied requests by the Amicus Curiae to order relief in other counties.
The justices warned, however, that their decision sets a precedent: ” To the extent other county political parties have improperly certified candidates, those parties ignore the decisions of this Court at their own peril.”
The SCGOP responded with a press release today:
Today’s Supreme Court decision is extremely disappointing. This is a sad day for South Carolina voters,” said Chairman Connelly.
It’s tragic that good citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, attempted to file as candidates, only to have their names tossed out over a technicality.
The Supreme Court has injected itself into the political parties’ once exclusive right to choose their candidates. Instead of seeing the law as the legislature intended, the court created a “Frankenstein” – a set of hypertechnical rules that defy common sense and ignore the instructions of the state’s own Ethics Commission. In the process, the court has disenfranchised thousands of South Carolina voters.