Governor Nikki Haley today joined with Senator Larry Martin, Senator Shealy, Senator Campsen, Senator Paul Thurmond, and former Attorney General Henry McMaster in a ceremonial bill signing for S.2, the Equal Access to the Ballot Act.
"When you run for office, it's a true sacrifice, it's an individual sacrifice, it's a family sacrifice, and you have to fight," said Gov. Nikki Haley. "What we saw last election was one of the most painful things you can ever see in an election -- you had 200 people wanting to fight, wanting to serve and they were denied access to the ballot. With this bill we are saying that no party or individual will ever get in the way of someone running for office. We are fighters in South Carolina and we want more fighters."
By streamlining the ballot process and giving equal access to the ballot for incumbents and non-incumbents, S.2 seeks to correct the problems from the June 2012 primary election when more than 200 candidates were thrown off the ballot. In addition, S.2 accomplishes the first recommendation of the McMaster-Medlock Ethics Reform Commission report.
"This piece of legislation is one of the most important proposals of the McMaster-Medlock Commission and something I have been proud to fight for," said Senator Chip Campsen. "The governor is exactly right -- running for office takes a lot out of the candidate and their family, and having to fight in the court system just to stay on the ballot is completely unacceptable in a Democratic Republic. Honest, open, and free elections, that people have confidence in, is a foundation of our country and this bill helps to ensure that."
Bill Summary --
* Gives equal access to the ballot for incumbents and non-incumbents by making the qualifications for candidacy the same and gives greater access to the ballot by streamlining the process.
* Removes the requirement that failure to timely file a Statement of Economic Interest form results in disqualification from the ballot.
* All candidates still required to file economic interest forms, but late filings would be assessed with a fine, rather than disqualification from the ballot.
* Changes the economic interest forms filing deadline to March 30th to be consistent with other candidate filing deadlines.
* Makes election commissions, rather than political parties, the entities responsible for accepting candidate filing documents which include Statements of Intention of Candidacy, Party Pledge, and the filing fee. Filing period remains the same -- March 16th to March 30th.
* Permits political parties to still be involved in the process by allowing party chairmen to designate persons to observe filing times at election commissions.
* Requires that election commissions construe errors or omissions in a candidate's filing forms in the candidate's favor, giving greater access to the ballot when technicalities arise.
* Requires the State Election Commission and state political parties to notify their county counterparts of this new law and also requires the State Election Commission to post guidance on its website.