Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Hundreds of good, qualified candidates were booted off the 2012 ballot by the State Supreme Court on what was essentially a technicality. We knew for months this needed to be fixed before 2014. Last week the House approved legislation that expanded access to the ballot and ensured people who want to run for office in our state will have an opportunity to do so.
The previous law required candidates to file a “Statement of Economic Interest” (SEI) in person and on paper at the same time a candidate filed the Statement of Candidacy – despite the fact that the SEI is filed exclusively online. Meanwhile, the court ruled that incumbents automatically did it correctly, rightfully angering people across our state. We removed the SEI from the requirements for filing and placed it squarely under our ethics laws.
Four of my current Republican colleagues – Rep. Mike Ryhal of Horry, Rep. Samuel Rivers of Berkeley, Rep. Ray Felder of York and Rep. Kevin Hardee of Horry – were all removed from the ballot and had to win their elections through a difficult road as a petition candidate.
Another problem that has emerged in recent years is the use of some party chairmen – on both sides of the aisle – to use some litmus test to determine if a candidate is “Republican enough” or “Democrat enough.” And local party officials standing in the way of rightful, qualified candidates offering their names for election is not right. So we changed the filing procedures for public office, which simplifies the procedures and makes it more open to the public. Filing papers will be given to the county election commissions rather than with the party, and you can obtain the papers from the Internet.
The bi-partisan bill made one final change to the way parties nominate candidates for the ballot. South Carolina has a well-established system of primary elections. It works, and the election process ensures voters have ample time to learn about the positions of a candidate and whether that candidate truly believes in the principles of the party.
A small group of political party leaders disagree. They want to make it easier to nominate candidates at all levels of government by party convention, arguing that a “small group” of people determine who will be on a ballot. Their solution is more nominations by convention – an ironic twist where they believe a small group of super-active party insiders should be able to convene in a room to determine who is a candidate. That takes it out of the hands of the 623,000 South Carolinians who voted in the 2010 party primaries.
Like with our changes to the filing process, this is about ensuring the largest number of people have access to choose from the largest number of candidates. This is about making our process more democratic, more free and more accountable to the voters of our state.
One other item of note last week, the House approved legislation that will accelerate the process of addressing our state’s road needs. A large bi-partisan majority approved dedicating the sales tax paid on car sales to the Department of Transportation. While this is only a drop in the bucket of what our state’s roads need, it gives our DOT a $100 million dedicated revenue stream it can count on so it can begin repairing our roads and bridges.
(Representative Mike Sottile (R) represents part of East Cooper in the S.C. State House of Representatives. He can be contacted at Isle of Palms at 886-8759, in Columbia at 803-212-6880, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.