After a third reading today, the Senate passed the “Equal Access to the Ballot Act” to fix a technicality that kicked hundreds of candidates off the ballot in 2012.
The bill, S.2, sponsored by Senators Campsen, Martin, Cromer and Hayes, will make the requirements of incumbents and challengers equal. It also clarifies the law to state that candidates seeking Congressional, Statewide, or district office including more than one county must file a Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC) with the State Election Commission, and General Assembly Candidates must file a SIC with the election commission of the county in which they reside. Candidates must also file a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) electronically with the State Ethics Commission. Incumbents and challengers will be treated equally, with both being required to file a SEI by noon on March 30 for any year which there is a general election.
Those who fail to file an SEI by the close of the filing period will be subject to a fine and then given a grace period to file the proper paperwork, rather than being immediately removed from the ballot. Candidates who intentionally refuse to comply with the filing requirements after repeated notices and fines will not be allowed to take office until a completed SEI is filed.
“Last year, voters were denied choices because of a small technicality,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin. “This bill will ensure that voters will be given the choices they deserve, and eliminate the potential for an issue like the one we had in 2012.”
Senator Campsen believes that the sooner we get the ballot issue taken care of, the better:
“An issue which removed more than 250 candidates from the primary ballot is definitely one that needed to be addressed as soon as possible,” Campsen said. “Voters can now be assured that they will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate they choose.”