COLUMBIA -- The State Election Commission expects to have plans in place for running the first-in-the South presidential primary by October, the agency said Wednesday.
The primary's funding and fate were put in doubt by state budget writers and Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of money for the contest. The Legislature overrode the veto last week and the state's attorney general said the Election Commission can run the primary and bill the state Republican Party.
That will happen under a contract the state will discuss, draft and commit to by October, Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
The state GOP is working to pull details and money together, party executive director Matt Moore said. "We're working closely with the Election Commission to run an outstanding primary that the world will watch next February," Moore said.
The budget that took effect last week allows the commission to use cash left over from the 2010 elections to cover its regular costs, including next year's Statehouse primaries and the presidential primary. Whitmire said it remains unclear how much of that $680,000 might be available. The commission estimates the presidential primary will cost about $1.5 million and the state GOP will make up the difference.
Whitmire said costs could decrease if precincts are combined. But those decisions will be made by county election offices and based on past voting patterns as well as how close precincts are to each other.
The state GOP has wanted to cut costs also by using fewer paid election workers. Whitmire said there may be minor reductions in those costs. For instance, if a county election official expects lower turnout at a precinct, it may be staffed with nine instead of 11 poll workers, Whitmire said.
"We're limited by funding and limited by state law," Whitmire said. "So the party will be somewhat in a box on some of those things."
The GOP has already raised $160,000 from candidate filing fees for the primary and expects up to six other candidates to file $35,000 fees before the primary. "We're well on the way to meeting the requirements of this election," Moore said.