Candidate Off Ballot Sees Beyond Court Decision
McGowin Promises Petition Challenge in S.C. Senate 44
By Barbara McGowin
[Editor's Note: Barbara McGowin was a Democratic candiate in S.C. Senate District 44]
On May 2, the S.C. Supreme Court issued a decision that shook the politic body of our state. Why would a court decision requiring the South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) and the South Carolina Republican Party (SCRP) to follow the law in certifying candidates be considered so disruptive? There are two obvious reasons.
The first reason is government officials, since 2010, are required to complete a statement of economic interest (SEI) online with the South Carolina Ethics Commission for the previous calendar year by April 15. The requirement to complete an SEI has been the law since 1991. Prior to 2010, this information was provided by completing a paper SEI form. The State Senate Ethics Committee tells me there are probably some old paper SEI forms in a desk somewhere. Nevertheless, an SEI form was not available for candidates filing noon March 16 through noon March 30, the prescribed filing period for partisan candidates.
The court's decision not only requires SCDP and SCRP to follow the law in certifying candidates, but it also specified that a paper SEI form be submitted at the same time a Statement of Intended Candidacy (SIC) form is submitted. Dick Harpootlian, Chairman, SCDP, testified an SEI is submitted electronically on the State Ethics Commission’s website. The court decision states, "Filing an SEI with the State Ethics Commission cannot excuse noncompliance with § 8-13-1356(B)."
It was as difficult to certify that the Earth rotates around the Sun to the Roman Catholic Church in 1600 as it was to explain to the Supreme Court on May 2 that it is not possible to provide a paper SEI form simultaneously with a paper SIC form. Thankfully, those who hold to the truth that they complied with the filing requirements will not be executed; all they have to do is petition for the desired elected office. We have come a long way since the 15th century.
The second reason the Court's decision is disruptive is that it required all non-exempt candidates to provide a paper SEI form at the same time a paper SIC form was provided. Incumbent S.C. representatives and senators who had an SEI on file prior to noon March 16, were exempted by law. Two state representatives and eight state senators had filed an SEI prior to noon March 16.
The State House and Senate are scrambling to figure out how an impossible burden of compliance placed on non-exempt candidates by the S.C. Supreme Court can be removed. However, what concerns incumbents most are how to finagle an exemption for non-exempt incumbents. In the meantime there will undoubtedly be many more law suits filed in addition to federal review if part of the solution is changing South Carolina’s election laws.
The SCDP did not include my name on the re-certified candidate list May 4. This does not change my resolve to be a state senator. I will be a petition candidate for S.C. Senate District 44.
As far as I am concerned there is much more pressing matters. Good jobs, quality education, affordable health care and home ownership are becoming out of reach for more and more South Carolina residents. I choose to spend my time and energy on figuring out how to solve these problems.
Instead of knocking on doors and gaining insight from my constituents, I will now include a request for them to sign my petition for candidacy. Those who would like to join me on focusing on what really matters, please email me at email@example.com.