Court to Hear Motions in Dorchester GOP Ballot Case
County courthouse will be packed Monday with party leaders, election officials, candidates and lawyers in a case that could shift the ground in several local races.
The legal challenge impacting several Dorchester GOP candidates will reach the courtroom Monday morning as the days grow thin between now and an Aug. 15 deadline to get on the November ballot.
Dorchester County Judge Howard P. King will hear motions in the increasingly crowded case of the Dorchester Democrats vs. area GOP leaders, Republican candidates and election board officials. The requests include defense motions to dismiss and for summary judgement. See a complete list.
The genesis of the case comes from a S.C. Supreme Court decision in the spring that forced hundreds of candidates off primary and general election ballots. State law requires that candidates file ethics paperwork at the same time as campaign filing.
Due to a newer regulation that requires online ethics filing, most first-time candidates submitted those forms separately. The court ruled candidates must be culled from the ballot if they didn't follow the obscure tandem filing procedure.
Across the state, most first-time candidates were pulled from the ballot, but the Dorchester Republican filings was largely untouched — with just one candidate impacted.
With one of their own candidates forced off the ballot in a competitive County Council race, local Democrats marveled at the luck that the Dorchester GOP crossed every "t" and dotted every "i". In filing the suit, the Democrats allege that none of the first-time candidates filed properly and all should be permanently removed from the November ballot.
The list of defendants have grown to include Republican groups in Dorchester, Charleston and Berkeley, as well as the state party; elections officials in all three counties; Tony Piscatella, who assisted in processing filing paperwork for GOP candidates; and several candidates whose fortunes rest on the court decision, including primary winners Sean Bennett and Ed Carter, as well as S.C. Sen. Mike Rose, who lost to Bennett in their District 38 primary.
In June, a court order decertified the campaigns of Bennett, Carter, and Dorchester Republican Party chair Carroll Duncan, who is running for County Council.
Though that two-week order has expired, there has been no subsequent motion to rectify the candidates, putting their campaigns in limbo with just 10 days before the deadline to certify candidates for the November elections.