Saturday, May 16, 2009

Moves in SC government toward restricting political access

Two restrictive campaign bills are before the South Carolina State Legislature. There is insufficient time for the bills to pass this year, but they will still be on the agenda when the session resumes for 2010.

H. 3746 would complicate independent campaign by prohibiting primary voters from signing candidacy petitions.

H. 3067 would ban political fusion. Last year, the state electoral commission threw Green Party nominee Eugene Platt off the November ballot for House District 115 because he was defeated in the Democratic Party primary. The state has given major parties a virtual veto over ambitious cross-party campaigns. H. 3067 would prohibit fusion outright.

The South Carolina State Election Commission has also moved to restrict the ability of smaller parties to nominate by convention. According to a recent article on Ballot Access News, the Commission now requires all candidates to submit declarations of candidacy in the early spring. In the previous years, this was only applied to candidates entering a primary. Since only smaller parties nominate by convention, the change seems intended to make challenges to unpopular major party primary winners more difficult.

Although the anti-fusion bill has 11 sponsors, versus the restrictive petition bill's lone sponsor, the lack of movement may be a hopeful sign. There is no groundswell of public support for limiting campaigns. The politicians' and Election Commission's tendency toward restricting free elections points out the necessity of complete transparency in government and grassroots activity to open up the political process.

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