Controversy as South Carolina Judiciary Removes Hundreds from Ballot

What might have been a minor change in the way in which candidates can file for office in South Carolina has stirred up significant controversy.  The state passed a law in 2010 that allowed candidates to submit some of their required documentation electronically, something many of the candidates then did.  However, an old law requiring paper copies still remained on the books.  State court then removed from the ballot all candidates who had not filed paper copies alongside their electronic copies, making exceptions only for incumbents.

It’s surprising both that South Carolina failed to expressly declare the old legislation null and void, and that the judicial system chose to read the plain meaning of the two laws, especially considering the somewhat absurd result.  220 candidates were taken out of the running as a result of the court’s ruling, leaving many incumbents running unopposed.

The affected candidate making the most headlines is Paul Thurmond, son of deceased US senator Strom Thurmond.  Thurmond was booted off the ballot alongside the other several hundred candidates, but appealed to the State Supreme Court.  He argued that his position as a prosecutor qualified him as a public official, and that he’d already won a June primary and the Republican Party’s certification.  The court allowed the party to hold a new primary for the senate seat, a move that some are calling into question.

The Democrats and the South Carolina Election Commission are arguing that the reasoning given by the judiciary for the new primary constitutes a change in federal election law.  Because this alleged change was not approved by the Justice Department, it violates the federal Voter Rights act.  Pursuant to this, the Democratic party has filed a lawsuit alleging that a special exception was made for Mr. Thurmond.  Such an exception that is of little comfort to the many others left off the ballot for the same reason.  Without the deep pockets of the Republican Party behind them to the courts, most of these candidates are simply out of the running.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/us/in-south-carolina-paul-thurmonds-candidacy-faces-challenge.html?_r=2&ref=us&

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