HICKS COLUMN: Laws don't disqualify candidates, lawmakers do
So nearly 200 candidates statewide have been kicked off this year's ballot, paving the way for many incumbents to win re-election without a fight.
Isn't that convenient?
Seems many candidates this year failed to file, in duplicate, Statements of Economic Interest — which tells you if they have a stake in any organization that receives public money. Many filed online, but the state Supreme Court says they also had to file paper copies when they filed to run.
Turns out incumbents are exempt.
It would be easy — and loads of fun — to spin an elaborate conspiracy theory here. And a lot of people would love to point out that then-state Rep. Nikki Haley was a sponsor of the bill that led to this electoral Armageddon.
But the truth is there is no shadow Incumbent Protection Act at work here. This all comes down to the Legislature passing laws without bothering to see what they actually, well, do.
In other words, those folks in Columbia don't know what they are doing. It's just a coincidence that it's to their benefit.
Statements of Economic Interest are not a bad idea.
For instance, it would be good to know if, say, someone voting for a new wing on a hospital got paid by said hospital.
This is one of those things the state determined it needed after a few good ol' boys were caught selling their votes during a little sting called Lost Trust.
Back when the original law was passed, incumbents exempted themselves from filling out the form at filing because they had to fill out one every year anyway. That's about as far as the common sense goes here.
A few years back, Haley and others proposed a law to require candidates to file their Economic Interest statements online. It was all, oddly enough, in the name of transparency. No need for people to have to drive to Columbia when they could just go on the Internet. Makes sense.
Except that no one added a line in that law, which passed, to say that it replaced the old requirement. So both are in effect for this election.
Gripe about the Supreme Court all you want, but it was just following the law.
It's the law that's screwy. Well, the people who make laws anyway.
Lin Bennett, Charleston County Republican Party chairwoman, has had better weeks. She had to disqualify two candidates who she felt had legitimately filed and qualified to run.
Kicking them off the ballot is no way to be. “We want as many people as want to get involved on the ballot,” she says.
Good policy. Instead, you had parties in other counties out recruiting candidates only to have to come back and tell them, in effect, thanks for playing. Better luck next time.
The only good thing to come out of this, Bennett says, is it is a good excuse to put together a committee to look at the state's election laws and figure out how to inject a little common sense into them.
It's a great idea. Just don't put any lawmakers on that committee.