A state Republican Party leader and state Election Commission spokesman say no problem exists with the state’s two-week runoff after primaries when the leading candidate fails to get more than 50 percent of the vote.
The state already has in place a system for ensuring absentee voters can cast ballots in primary runoffs, they say. As the result of a 2006 law, absentee voters now receive two ballots at least 45 days before a primary that could lead to a runoff. On ballot is for the primary. The other is an “instant runoff ballot” where voters are asked to rank candidates. That ballot is counted only if there is a runoff. The second vote goes to the candidate in the runoff ranked highest by the absentee voter.
However, South Carolina has already been warned once by the DOJ that our current election law “fails to ensure compliance with” the 2009 MOVE Act (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act). The MOVE Act mandates a 45-day deadline to ensure military voters can vote in ALL elections, including runoffs. The disenfranchisement of votes is a far greater issue than party politics and it is a far greater issue than the divide between state and federal governments. Add to that the fact the voters we are talking about happen to be our men and women who literally put their lives on the line in defense of our country and to me it matters not which level of government remedies this most serious issue. Who wants to be the one to face one of our military personnel and tell them they just didn’t matter enough to get the federal government involved when our state legislators failed to act to protect their vote?
This “out of compliance” issue was evident in last year’s Special Election where Mark Sanford was elected to Congress. At that time, Attorney General Alan Wilson received a letter dated March 22, 2013 from T. Christian Herren, Jr. from the U.S. Dept of Justice. That letter walked through a “temporary solution” to remedy the potential violation of the UOCAVA Voting Act for that special election, but warned South Carolina that it was a temporary solution and stated:
“We urge the State to seek a permanent legislative solution that will ensure that its special elections calendar complies with UOCAVA for all special primary and special general elections for Federal office.”
That letter is almost a year old, and yet our South Carolina legislators have failed to secure our South Carolina military voters’ rights. Given the large percentage of our state’s population serving in the military or part of a military family, I think we should be arguing to give overseas service members more, not less time to receive and cast their votes.
Today’s press conference asked for just that … for the South Carolina legislators to FIX THIS DISENFRANCHISEMENT problem for our military voters that has been lingering for almost a year. Before Eric Holder’s Dept of Justice does it for us.
The State’s report says:
Carroll cites a March 2013 letter from the federal Justice Department to state Attorney General Alan Wilson that takes issue with the state’s calendar for federal special elections, but does not specifically challenge the two-week runoff time frame, said S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
I’d say that “It is only a temporary solution. We urge the State to seek a permanent legislative solution that will ensure that its special elections calendar complies with UOCAVA for all special primary and special general elections for Federal office, and would request that your office keep us informed of any progress toward that end” is a very specific challenge.
There is a process for changing our laws, unfortunately our SC General Assembly has not seen the disenfranchisement of SC military voters as enough of a reason to act to change those laws.
We’re prompting them.
Cross post from Spartanburg Tea Party