A bill advancing to the state Senate floor would no longer allow South Carolina cities and towns to cancel elections if only one person is listed on the ballot.
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that would require municipal elections to be held even with only a single incumbent officially running. State Reps. Laurie Funderburk, D-Camden, and Ralph Kennedy, R-Leesville, say voters should still have the right to make a protest vote.
“This is a good government bill,” Funderburk said during the committee’s meeting. “It restores citizens’ constitutional rights to elect their municipal officers, including the constitutional right to write in the candidate of their choice.”
State law only allows a candidate to formally run as a “write-in” if they file within 14 days of the party primary closings. Some supporters like State Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Manning, said some mayors and town council members will often be “hush-hush” about looming deadlines to discourage would-be opponents from filing.
But State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, argued an election with only one candidate would unnecessarily cost money for a municipal government. “The cost involved of holding an election when nobody’s contesting it is the issue,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. Hutto did not vote against the bill, but argued a better solution would be requiring counties and towns to hold their mayoral or council elections on Election Day.
Specifically, the bill would eliminate a special exemption and treat municipal races the same as statewide or federal ones. The House approved the language in March.