Ballot-fix bill moving quickly
COLUMBIA — The only petition candidate to successfully unseat an incumbent following the mass wipeout last year of 250 candidates said Tuesday that the state can’t wait to pass a fix preventing another ballot debacle.
State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, is getting her wish, for the time being at least, after the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed a bill aiming to clear up confusion that led to the mass wipeout.
The Senate, which along with the House opened the new session Tuesday, is expected to take up the proposal next week.
“We’ve got to do it now,” said Shealy, a committee member who was forced to run as a petition candidate after being booted from the ballot.
The incumbent she unseated, longtime Lexington Republican Sen. Jake Knotts, last year effectively killed a bill that would have restored the candidates.
A state Supreme Court ruling removed the candidates from the ballot following confusion related to how financial-disclosure forms had to be filed.
Incumbents were not affected by the ruling because they had disclosure forms already on file.
The new bill would treat incumbents and new candidates the same, requiring them both to file financial disclosures online.
County political party officials would have to verify that the forms have been filed before allowing a candidate to file an intention of candidacy.
Candidates would then receive a receipt verifying they have met all the requirements.
The new proposal also would jettison the death penalty for improper filing.
The bill proposes allowing candidates the chance to correct any mistake related to their filing and pay a fine rather than being removed from the ballot.
Some senators, including Spartanburg Republican Lee Bright, felt the Judiciary Committee was too quick to pass the bill Tuesday after approving several amendments.
But Committee Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, argued it was essential to clear the measure, allowing it to come up as one of the first proposals the Senate will consider.
Martin said senators are going to get a lot of questions about the bill anyway whether it remained in committee or headed to the full chamber.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand to talk about elections, generally,” Martin said. “Everybody’s got a story to tell.”
Reach Stephen Largen at (864) 641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen