When filing begins in earnest today, political candidates can expect a far smoother experience than two years ago.
For starters, they won't have to worry about being kicked off the ballot.
The state recently rewrote its filing procedures after an unexpected S.C. Supreme Court ruling knocked more than 200 county and state candidates off the 2012 ballot. Instead of having political parties receive candidates' filing papers and fees, state and county election offices will.
And candidates won't have to file a Statement of Economic Interest at the same time they file for office - the technicality that led to the earlier court ruling. Instead, they must file that statement before filing closes on March 30. Even if they miss that deadline, they face only a fine from the State Ethics Commission; they still will remain on the ballot.
"It totally separates the election filing process from the ethics filing process," said State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
Candidates who used to file with their state party, including statewide candidates, will file with the State Election Commission. Statehouse and county candidates who used to file with their county party now will file at their respective county election commission office. Their filing fees all remain the same.
"If you think about how it happened before, candidates were filing with party chairmen. It might have been on the trunk of a car or at the Waffle House or at their law office," he said. And county parties sometimes waited weeks before certifying their candidate lists to the state.
Whitmire said this year's filings will be posted almost immediately in a searchable format on the State Election Commission's website, scvotes.org.
"It will offer a level of transparency to candidate filing that has never been seen before in South Carolina," Whitmire said.
Whitmire said a few county election offices, such as Spartanburg and Lexington, planned to open Sunday, technically the first day of filing. But most, including the State Election Commission and offices in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, will open for filing at 8:30 Monday morning.
All election offices will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30, as party filing ends.
Filing for petition candidates and nonpartisan offices opens July 15.
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