The 2012 election process was an unparalleled disaster for South Carolina, with more than 250 candidates thrown off the ballot because of a glitch in an improperly written election-law change. But at least an election was held.
This year, unless the Legislature acts to pass a statewide bill to provide for uniform county election operations, elections might not even happen. And that's beginning with the primaries on June 10.
Edward D. Sloan Jr., president of the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation, has filed a lawsuit seeking to have a 2008 election law invalidated as unconstitutional.
An attorney general's opinion agrees with that assessment. And if the lawsuit is successful, elections won't be held.
Currently, there is a wide variety among county election operations. In some counties - Charleston, for example - voter registration and election boards have been consolidated. In other counties they remain separate. And there are instances where paid staff also serve as members of the local election board.
The 2008 law unsuccessfully attempted to paper over those differences.
The lack of uniformity can be attributed mainly to parochialism. Legislators have been loath to apply a statewide template to county elections operation and oversight.
Local election boards still provide lawmakers the opportunity to make appointments. And certainly two boards are better than one when that option is available.
"What we are doing is drafting a statewide bill," explained Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, who is co-sponsor of the Senate bill. "We've got to get it done."
And the Legislature has less than a month to settle the issue during the current session.
Both House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the bill, and a conference committee has been formed to iron out the differences.
The Legislature has dealt with Mr. Sloan in the past, and has the lumps to prove it. The Supreme Court threw out the Legislature's so-called "kitchen sink bill" in 2005 because it contained non-germane spending items.
The retired Greenville road builder has won dozens of lawsuits seeking to make state and local governments abide by their own laws. While he has been reimbursed for legal fees for many of his efforts, he has spent thousands of his own dollars in his civic quest.
One of the compelling goals of the Legislature should be to ensure that the state elections don't go off the rails yet again. The voters should have the opportunity to go to the polls, and elections need to go forward as scheduled.
That's a fundamental right, and the Legislature should do what it is necessary to protect it.
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