CHARLESTON — South Carolina’s primaries will go on as scheduled Tuesday after a three-judge panel refused to stop the voting at the request of five candidates kicked off of the ballots because of improper paperwork.
The decision late Monday afternoon leaves some ballots with no contested races. Other ballots will be much shorter and hundreds of thousands of voters won’t be able to participate after nearly 250 candidates for jobs from sheriff to state Senate were declared ineligible.
Five candidates from upstate South Carolina had sued in federal court, asking that either their names be put back on the ballots or the whole primary be delayed until their concerns are heard at a full court hearing.
But a three-judge panel meeting by telephone conference call refused to stop the voting or restore the candidates’ names. It was not clear when a formal order would be released. An attorney for the candidates, Candy Kern-Fuller, was not immediately available to comment.
Challengers statewide were decertified after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled last month the law requires candidates to file their economic interest forms at the time they file their intension to run. There was confusion over when the statements needed to be done because of a newer state law that required online filing.
Nearly 50 of the decertified candidates were seeking General Assembly seats. Signs in polling places, open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. EDT, will tell voters that choices for decertified candidates won’t count.
In some places, no one is on the ballot, and nearly 300 polling places in 14 counties won’t even open. Chris Whitmire of the State Election Commission says about 436,000 registered voters won’t be able to participate.
In another case from Charleston County, the state Supreme Court was to immediately hear a challenge to taking a candidate off the ballot. But the high court said the case could proceed first in the lower courts without any harm to the rights of the parties.
There are primaries in four congressional districts to be decided Tuesday, with most of the interest in the new 7th District in the northeastern corner of the state where 13 candidates were running. South Carolina gained the seat as a result of population growth in the last census and for the first time in eight decades the state again has seven House members.
There are nine Republicans, including former Lt. Gov. Andre Bower and former Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Chad Prosser, as well as four Democrats in the race.
Democratic state Rep. Ted Vick of Chesterfield dropped out last month after his arrest on a drunken driving and weapons charge in Columbia. Myrtle Beach Republican state Rep. Thad Viers quit after his January arrest on charges he harassed an ex-girlfriend.
In the 2nd District in the Midlands, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson again faces Phil Black of Lexington County, who he defeated in the last two GOP primaries.
Nine state senators and 14 state House members face challengers Tuesday and there will be 21 newcomers with incumbents either retiring or seeking another office and the election to fill the seat of former Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell.
After the court ruling, there are no major party candidates for four House seats.
Four House members are running for open seats. GOP Rep. Tom Young is a shoo-in as the only major-party candidate for the Aiken seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Greg Ryberg, who’s retiring after 20 years.
Freshmen GOP Rep. Tom Corbin of Greenville County is running for two seats. He’s unopposed for a second term in the House and faces one GOP opponent for Sen. Phil Shoopman’s seat. State law allows candidates to seek more than one seat.
GOP Senate committee chairmen with tough primary battles include Sens. Mike Fair and Davis Thomas, both of Greenville County, and Sen. Ronnie Cromer of Prosperity, whose redrawn district encompasses more of Lexington County. His three GOP challengers include the Lexington County GOP’s immediate past chairman Rich Bolen, former WIS-TV anchor Kara Gormley Meador and businessman Alan Hunter.
With four GOP opponents, Thomas has the most crowded primary race of any incumbent. Fair lost one of his GOP opponents last week but still has one challenger.
In Spartanburg County, first-term GOP Sen. Lee Bright faces former Sen. John Hawkins, who wants his seat back. Gov. Nikki Haley inserted herself in that race Sunday, by sending a mass email to supporters asking them to support Bright. She planned to campaign for Bright on Monday.
The U.S. Justice Department plans to have representatives monitoring the polls in both Fairfield and Williamsburg counties. The department routinely monitors Southern elections to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and color.
Michael Passman, a spokesman for the department, said in an email the agency would not comment on why those two counties were chosen for monitors.
Associated Press writer Seanna Adcox contributed to this story from Columbia, S.C. Follow Bruce Smith at http:twitter.com/brucesmithap