Judge: Three-Judge Panel Should Hear Case Monday
District court judge on Thursday afternoon sets fast deadlines in ballot battle.
COLUMBIA — A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday afternoon said she will ask for a special three-judge panel to be assembled on Monday in the battle over the S.C. ballot.
Judge Cameron Currie asked Todd Kincannon, an attorney for Upstate S.C. Senate candidate Amanda Somers who filed the federal suit a week ago, to clarify some of his claims by Friday. And she asked the State Election Commission to file a response by Monday.
Somers has been joined on the case by John Pettigrew Jr., who is running against S.C. Sen. Shane Massey in District 25, which includes a significant portion of Lexington County, including a portion of the town of Lexington.
Somers was allowed to stay on the ballot, while Pettigrew was one of more than 180 who were removed from the ballot.
Kincannon claims that the Election Commission violated the Voting Rights Act when it sent ballots to military and overseas voters that only had federal races on them. A section of the Voting Rights Act states that any changes to the state's election law must be cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice because of South Carolina's past failure to protect the voting rights of minorities.
Elizabeth Crum, attorney for the Election Commission, said that federal law requires the ballots for federal races to be sent 45 days before the primary. She also said the U.S. Justice Department was aware that the commission was sending ballots that only listed candidates for federal offices.
Currie said the three-judge panel would need to determine Monday afternoon whether Somers, Pettigrew or both of them had standing to claim a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Currie asked both Kincannon and Pettigrew's attorney to clarify their claims, and she asked the Election Commission for more information about the ballots that were mailed.
She also said if elements of the Voting Rights Act are found to be violated, the June 12 primary would be delayed while either the U.S. Department of Justice reviews the ballot decisions or the State Elections Commission and the parties start the process over again.