Federal judges could decide to delay SC primaries

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- A three-judge panel will meet next week to consider delaying South Carolina's June 12 primaries in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision that removed nearly 200 candidates from ballots.

U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie heard arguments Thursday in Columbia from an attorney for Amanda Somers, who says her candidacy was thrown into question after justices ruled financial- and candidate-intent paperwork must be filed at the same time.

Somer's attorney, Todd Kincannon, argued voting rights had been violated in the process during the 90-minute hearing.

"I think the court is taking this very seriously," said Kincannon following the hearing. "That's all we can ask, that the law be followed and that we have our day in court."

Somers, an Upstate Republican running for a Senate District 5 seat, was ultimately allowed on the ballot when parties certified candidates last week.

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Judge Currie, who at one point during the hearing said "it's all very confusing," also allowed a Senate candidate from Edgefield who was bounced from the ballot to join the suit.

Government watchdogs have been keeping a close eye on the ballot access case ever since the South Carolina Supremec Court ruled last week, that under a new system, dozens of candidates did not properly file statement of economic interest forms.

"The elections are to give voters options as to the candidates," said John Crangle or SC Common Cause. "The state Supreme Court ruling was absolutely catastrophic as to voter rights."

Many candidates by the new filing rules during this election cycle have argued they did exactly as they were told by party officials.

Senate lawmakers spent much of the week trying work out a fix that would get candidates back on the ballot. However, two days of heated debate may be best remembered for finger-pointing, arguments, and a shouting match between Senator Jake Knotts and Congressman Joe Wilson's wife.

Roxanne Wilson lashed out at Knotts at a Senate hearing after he moved to block a measure that could have potentially patched up the blown-up ballot.

Lawmakers eventually shot down any measures that could have gotten some candidates back on the June primary ballot.

The fate of what some call the "death penalty" for some candidates now lies in the hands of a panel of judges.

While disregarding several arguments during Thursday's hearing, Judge Cameron Currie says allegations the state violated federal law in sending separate ballots overseas for federal and local races may have merit.

Some counties have yet to send out a second round of ballots following the court decision.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)