S.C. Senate approves bill to fix ballot mess

The Associated PressJanuary 17, 2013 

— The South Carolina Senate tentatively approved a bill Thursday to change how people file their paperwork to become candidates.

The bill still needs one more vote before it goes to the House, which is considering its own solution.

The proposal may also get tweaked more in the Senate before it comes up for final approval next week. Sen. Larry Martin said supporters wanted to pass something quickly to show senators were determined to fix problems that led to 250 candidates being kicked off primary ballots last year. He said it also gives lawmakers time to talk about the bill with constituents over the next several days.

“This is the one bill you are going to get asked about when you go home this weekend,” said Martin, R-Pickens, on the Senate floor.

The bill would set the same deadline for incumbents and challengers to file paperwork confirming they are eligible to run and detailing the income they get from government and any ties to lobbyists.

Anyone who failed to file the paperwork would not be kicked off the ballot, but they also wouldn't be eligible to take the oath of office if they won the election.

Martin resisted changes to the bill that would take the filing process out of the hands of political parties. The Senate proposal would allow counties to choose whether they accepted candidacy papers and filing fees at their headquarters or at county election offices.

“It is their primaries. It is their candidates,” Martin said.

Supporters said party leaders often want to meet candidates and there are provisions in the bill to assure that parties can't lose the paperwork of anyone they don't want running.

The House is working on its own bill that would make more substantial changes in the filing process. It is currently at the Judiciary Committee.

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