COLUMBIA — A bill meant to prevent another ballot-tossing election mess is heading to the South Carolina House.
The Senate had a third reading Wednesday for legislation syncing the candidate filing process for incumbents and those seeking to be officeholders. It also allows those who don’t file properly to pay a fine and remain on the ballot, as long as they fix it before primaries.
“We fixed it!” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, noting that the bill is designed to address only last year’s election debacle. “I tried to keep from wading into the weeds. We needed to respond and address what happened last year.”
About 250 candidates were kicked off primary ballots last June after back-to-back decisions from the state Supreme Court over improperly filed financial forms. Their ouster stemmed from confusion over a 2010 law requiring online filing, which failed to match up separate sections of state law.
The bill received tentative approval in the Senate last Thursday, but debate continued on the specifics. A compromise on who would receive candidates’ paperwork allowed the bill to advance to the House. It directs candidates to give their candidacy statement and pay fees at their county election office, rather than to local party leaders.
Martin said that while he wanted to keep party leaders more involved in the process, the bulk of the Senate wanted one central location for all candidates to turn in forms.
Candidates would then have until March 30, the filing deadline, to turn in their financial disclosure form online. If they miss that deadline, they could pay a fine. The current law requires those seeking office to turn in all paperwork at the same time.
The bill does not change the filing timeframe. An earlier version had shortened it from two weeks to one.
Democrats want to focus next on early voting legislation, which will be up for debate in a Senate subcommittee next week.
House Republicans have defeated previous attempts for early voting.