Panel tosses ballot case; primary to go as planned

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) - A panel of federal judges threw out a lawsuit Monday accusing South Carolina election officials of breaking federal law by sending partial ballots to overseas and military voters.

However, the attorney who brought the suit says it is just the beginning of the litigation to come in the election controversy.

After a roughly 60-minute hearing in Columbia, the three federal judges said that state Senate candidate Amanda Somers did not have standing to challenge the Election Commission's decision to send ballots with only federal races on them to overseas voters.

The commission's attorney said not only did state election officials not break the law, they complied with the practice followed since 2006.

Amanda Somers, a Greenville County Republican, originally sued election officials last week after she said he candidacy was put in limbo by a state Supreme Court ruling that disqualified nearly 200 candidates for improperly filing financial paperwork. Somers was ultimately certified for the election, but still pursued the case with Kincannon who shifted his focus to the military and overseas ballot issue. The suit
could have potentially delayed the June 12 primary.

Despite the fact the federal judges ruled the decision to send those ballots did not violate federal law, Kincannon says he's pursuing several more lawsuits tied to the state Supreme Court decision.

"It is fair to say the drama of the 2012 elections will not be over for a very a long time," said Kincannon. "And that's not even considering post-election protests."

Pre-election protests have been plenty. An effort called "Operation Lost Vote" toured the state Monday, making stops in the Myrtle Beach area, Charleston, Columbia and Aiken.

A group of Horry County candidates disqualified by the Supreme Court ruling spoke to a group of voters at a Conway restaurant Monday morning. The political hopefuls say they plan to collect signatures on petition drives to get their names on the ballot for the November election as Independent candidates.

"It's time for the Justice Department to come in to South Carolina and look at this," said Mary Henry, a disqualified candidate. "There were too many things that went wrong."

The candidates said they were given incorrect information when they filed and their faith in the system lost.

"The people that I do trust are the people out here, the voters in South Carolina when they understand the injustice that has happened," said Harry Kibler of Operation Lost Vote.

State lawmakers' efforts to restore the ballot came up short last week when senators failed to advance a measure that would have re-instated roughly 95 percent of the candidates booted from the ballot. However, the move still would have required federal approval, and with just weeks before the primary that would have been unlikely.

Two weeks of lawsuits, finger-pointing and confusion are now leading critics to call for change.

"A comprehensive election law reform act is absolutely necessary," said Kincannon. "And I think it's hard to find somebody in South Carolina that would disagree with that."

Do you think state election law should be reformed to avoid incidents like this in the future?

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)