What started out as a lawsuit that could impact the races of a handful of Lexington County candidates running for state and local-level offices is now rippling throughout the entire state.
At stake? Dozens of candidates (at least 83 so far) could see their names pulled from the June 12 party primary ballots on account that they failed to submit legally mandated financial disclosure forms within the required timeframe. This report from SCNOW lists many of the candidates who, so far, could see their names pulled from ballots.
The state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the suit Tuesday morning in Columbia. The court meantime has ordered election officials to stop distributing ballots for the June primary until the matter is resolved. The lawsuit was filed by Michael Anderson and Robert Barger, both of Lexington.
Herb Hayden, executive director of the state ethics commission, said the Supreme Court may issue a narrow ruling affecting only the Lexington County candidates listed in the lawsuit. But he said the court also could issue a broader decision affecting the political fate of candidates across the state, The Anderson Independent-Mail reported.
The state elections commission gave the candidates -- many of them political neophytes -- extra time to file their Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms due to alleged confusion over new online filing requirements.
The complainants in the suit, however, argue the state's filing laws are clear and unambiguous and that the names of offenders must be pulled from election ballots.
"After reading the complaint and viewing exhibits included with the lawsuit by two Lexington County voters against the S.C. Republican and Democratic parties and the S.C. Election Commission, it is clear it will be very difficult for the S.C. Supreme Court to fail to disqualify some candidates who were late in filing their Statement of Economic Interests," one state political pundit wrote as part of a series of articles on the issue.
New campaign rules required all candidates and all elected officials across the state to file their SEI by the noon March 30 deadline, according to State Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. The filing must be made with the State Ethics Commission and done online. Further, it must be done at the same that a person files their declaration of candidacy.
Lexington County senatorial candidate Katrina Shealy, who is seeking to unseat fellow Republican incumbent Jake Knotts and is named in the lawsuit, said she filed online -- but hit the wrong button.
"That's what made me so mad because I knew I did it. I knew I did it the day I filed and I hit the save button instead of the file button," Shealy recenly told WIS-TV.
"Shealy says it was an honest mistake, but it's one that could cost her a spot on the Republican ticket," the station reported.