- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The general election to fill former House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s seat will continue Tuesday while the Supreme Court considers whether state election commissioners properly called for a special election.

The state’s high court on Friday set aside the commissioners’ decision a day earlier to allow Republicans to find a replacement for Harrell on the ballot.

The justices won’t decide before Election Day whether there can be a special election. They have not yet set a date for arguments, but it’s at least weeks away, according to their schedule for briefs.

Meanwhile, the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will be reported normally.

Harrell, first elected to the House in 1992 and elected speaker by his colleagues in 2005, pleaded guilty last week to campaign spending violations and resigned from office. Under the plea, he can’t hold office for at least three years, the period of his probation. Even if he gets the most votes, he cannot be declared the winner.

An attorney for Democrat Mary Tinkler petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to immediately review and overturn the commission’s decision, saying it ignores the timelines set in state law for when it’s legal to substitute a candidate who withdraws.

“We’re very happy to see the Supreme Court saw the necessity of the stay. We’re confident they’ll uphold the rule of law,” said Conor Hurley with the state Democratic Party.

The order came hours after the State Election Commission issued its written order on Thursday’s vote.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to order a special GOP primary for the seat representing parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties. Under that order, the results of Tuesday’s election would not count, though it would remain on the ballot. About 1,000 people already have voted absentee in the race.

Commissioners said their decision was based on Harrell being disqualified as a result of his guilty plea.

The commission’s schedule called for a one-week filing period for the GOP primary to begin on Election Day. The primary would follow on Nov. 25, and the special general election would have been either Dec. 9 or Dec. 23, depending on whether a runoff was needed.

In their order, commissioners recognized that their decision fell outside of state law’s timeline for such an election but reasoned that the law provided direction, rather than a mandate, saying a strict reading of the law would “lead to absurd results.” The Republican Party essentially wouldn’t have a candidate on the ballot, and voters wouldn’t have a choice, reads the order signed by the commissioners, all of whom are appointed by the Republican governor.

Other than Tinkler, a third-party candidate is also on the ballot. A Republican has held the seat for the last 40 years.

“We appreciate the Supreme Court giving this issue the full consideration it deserves,” said state GOP Chairman Matt Moore. “The Republican Party will continue its work to give voters choices in House District 114.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide