COLUMBIA — | Nearly three dozen more candidates have been disqualified from the South Carolina primaries next week after the most recent Supreme Court ruling in the controversy, according to election officials.
But those newly decertified names will still be on ballots for next Tuesday's voting, so signs in polling places will say which candidates' votes won't be counted.
The count has been fluctuating from hour to hour. As of late Thursday, 38 additional names from city, county and Statehouse races had been submitted to the State Election Commission. Among them are 15 candidates for state House and Senate races.
County parties have been scrambling to re-examine their candidate lists since Wednesday, after the state Supreme Court ruled that Florence County Republicans had disregarded an earlier ruling on paperwork submission and just certified all candidates.
Nearly 200 candidates were dropped from ballots last month after the justices ruled that financial and candidacy paperwork must be submitted together. Democrats in Florence County sued the local GOP, saying that the Republicans didn't follow that edict and had just certified everyone. Earlier this week, the high court sided with the Democrats and urged all counties and candidates to make sure they had followed the rules.
Both major parties lost scores of candidates during the first round of disqualifications that followed the May ruling. In the aftermath of this week's court decision, all but one of the candidates being scratched from consideration are Republicans. The only Democrat now out of the running voluntarily bowed out, acknowledging that she filed her financial papers electronically but not on paper.
The parties' responses to the mess have also differed. On Thursday night, state GOP Chairman Chad Connelly sent out a video in which he called the whole matter “disgusting” and, while pledging to abide by the court's rulings, decried conflicting information from state officials on how candidates should file their paperwork.
“We continue to believe that those candidates who submitted their SEI's on time, in good faith, regardless of whether they filed paper forms or online forms, were in compliance with the spirit and intent of the law,” Connelly said. “When the state agencies entrusted to guide this process are in conflict, and the court's rulings muddy the waters, it is no wonder that widespread confusion exists.”
Also Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan – a Republican unaffected by the ballot controversy – called the situation “deplorable” in a letter to his constituents.
“Through a technicality, the court has denied hundreds of people the right to run for office, and has essentially denied hundreds of thousands the right to participate in a free and fair election,” Duncan wrote. “You deserve better, and I'm disgusted that such an injustice has taken place in our state.”
Dick Harpootlian, chairman of South Carolina's Democrats, said Friday that the root of the problem lies not in the state's court system but in the GOP-controlled Legislature, which passed the confusing law requiring electronic filing for some paperwork but not for others.
“It was inartfully drawn and not vetted by anybody,” Harpootlian said. “It escaped the legal analysis it should have had, by the Republican Legislature and the Republican governor.”