Purged candidates returning?

A bill being considered Tuesday by the state Senate could reinstate state and local Republican and Democratic candidates who were purged from the ballot. File/staff

State senators are expected to meet at 10 a.m. today to kickstart legislation that would put almost 200 candidates back on this year’s ballots.

But a State Election Commission spokesman said many obstacles remain for those hoping to rewrite the ballots — particularly so close to the June 12 primaries.

Last week, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that candidates who did not file their Statements of Economic Interest at the same time that they declared for office were not eligible to run.

As a result, more than 100 state and local Republican and Democratic candidates across South Carolina — including more than a dozen in the Lowcountry — were purged from the ballot.

Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, predicted a bill by Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, to undo the effect of the court would pass the Senate. “You cannot tell the public that, because of some technicality that nobody is familiar with, you’re going to take somebody off the ballot. You can’t do that.”

Ford has spoken out against the ruling, even though his only two challengers, Frederick A. Fielding and Master Bines, were knocked off the June 12 primary ballot, giving Ford a clear path to a new four-year term.

But even if the bill also passes the House and is signed by Gov. Nikki Haley, there are other obstacles, State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

These include getting preclearance from the U.S. Justice Department or federal court. Another complication: Absentee ballots are being printed up and mailed to military serving overseas and other voters.

In a related move, a Republican Senate candidate from the Upstate, Amanda Somers, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to get back on the ballot.

Whitmire said a court could order the June 12 primaries delayed as it considers such legal arguments, but that move also would cause its own set of complications.

“If you were to delay the primary, you start overlapping into deadlines associated with the general election,” he said. “The idea would have to be very carefully considered. Those are the big issues.”

Charleston County Democratic Chairman Richard Hricik expressed doubt that a quick judicial ruling would clear things up.

“I don’t see how you could do it without triggering other lawsuits,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miriam Birdsong, a Democratic candidate for Dorchester County Council’s District 6, was not among the qualified candidates listed Friday by the State Election Commission. But she is properly qualified and her name will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Dorchester election officials said Monday.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.