Supreme Court Supports illegal acts by State Election Commission
South Carolina Libertarian Party, Petitioner. v. South Carolina State Election Commission and Marci Andino, in her official capacity as the Executive Director of the South Carolina State Election Commission, Respondents.
Oral arguments were heard in the South Carolina Supreme Court April 24th 10 am, Petitioner 15 minutes, Respondent 15 minutes and Petitioner 5 minutes to reply. There were about 30 people in the court room, Attorney General Lawyers and representatives, State Election commission, Senate and House staff representatives and 2 Libertarians.
Court was called to order at 10 and Lauren Martel introduced herself to the court representing the Libertarian Party. She started to present her arguments (about 3 pages) and got to the second line when Justice Beatty interrupted her and asked a question about the effective date of ACT 61. His question was followed by questions from Justice Pleicones, Justice Kittredge and Chief Justice Toal in rapid succession for the next 30 minutes. Questions were about the filing of Libertarian Candidates as Primary or Convention and whether filing fees were paid, issues presented in the Attorney General Briefs. These were responded to correctly that candidates tried to file as Primary and pay the filing fee but were refused by the Election Commissions receiving the filings. Questions were also asked about the Libertarian positions that ACT 61 is not legally in effect because requirements of Section 14 had not been met. When the US Supreme court struck down section 4 of the 1965 voter rights act, was there still a way for the State to voluntarily request the approval of the US Justice Department to meet the requirement of Section 14 of ACT 61. It was also brought up there was a way to achieve judicial approval or the Legislature could amend the language of the original ACT.
Then it was the Respondents turn in the firing line. It was another 30 minutes of intense questioning. The attorney tried to start by answering the questions presented to Ms. Martel but was quickly sidetracked with rapid fire questions from all Justices. Some of the major ones were what would happen if ACT 61 is not in effect legally, response 731 candidates will be removed from the ballot. If ACT 61 is in effect and the referendum question is required wouldn’t all parties be required to have a primary in 2016 as the Libertarian party is attempting to do in 2014? They answered no it is only required by the parties that already have primaries, the Justices wanted to know where that was written. The most important question to me was when Justice Pleicones asked what law and where did the Election Commission Director get the authority to deny the Libertarian Party a Primary. After a few ah, uh and wells it was admitted there is no authority to do that. Chief Justice Toal stated that the Libertarian party apparently was accepting the ACT 61 was in effect and was attempting to follow the law when the Director decided to not provide a Primary with a referendum question required by the new law. She continued we are here trying to fix a real problem with a law that was written to fix a bad law. Equal access to the ballot might turn out to be no access to the ballot.
Ms. Martel closed with statements of thanking the court for their quick response in this case and she knew that no matter how bad the results would be they would base their finding and opinions on the law. Court has ruled that the State Election Commission does not have to follow the law and provide a primary when requested by a political party. The ruling is totally opposite of what happened at the oral arguments.