SC Senate approves bill to clear future election chaos

The South Carolina Senate has approved a bill meant to prevent in future elections the chaos that resulted in nearly 200 candidates being tossed off June primary ballots.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- The South Carolina Senate approved a bill Wednesday that could head off the election chaos that is currently swirling throughout South Carolina.

Earlier this month, a state Supreme Court ruling resulted in almost 200 candidates being tossed off June's primary ballots after the court determined the political hopefuls did not properly file financial forms when filing to run for office.

The Senate measure approved unanimously Wednesday would remove the Democratic and Republican parties from the filing process and synchronize the deadlines for incumbents and challengers to turn in financial paperwork.

It does not apply retroactively, so it will not help candidates taken off ballots by the Supreme Court's ruling.

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"There's plenty of blame to go around," said disqualified House District 54 candidate Mike Ryhal. "What would be nice is people step up to the plate and say we made a mess of this and we acknowledge that instead of saying it's too bad these people aren't on the ballot. Well it's too bad they're still in their positions."

Ryhal was removed from the ballot as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling. On Wednesday, state Republican party officials heard protests tied to that issue from five candidates, including Ryhal, in Columbia.

Ryhal argued that his opponent Dennis DiSabato did not properly file either.

The party's executive committee ruled to keep DiSabato on the ballot despite some confusion that DiSabato readily admitted when questioned during the hearing.

"I'll admit as much. If I am to be certified, it is purely on a technicality," said DiSabato, an attorney from Horry County.

In a suprise move, GOP officials re-instated Senate candidate Katrina Shealy in one of the final hearings of the day. Shealy was originally de-certified by the party when they were ordered to submit updated candidate lists following the Supreme Court ruling.

Shealy will face long-time Senator Jake Knotts on June 12. A competitive race is expected after both sides engaged in a heated battle in the 2008 election cycle.

Despite the victory for one formerly ousted candidate, almost 200 others will either give up their campaign or collect signatures in a petition drive to appear on the ballot in the November election.

On Wednesday, an opinion issued by the South Carolina Attorney General's office said it would allow that practice.

House hopeful Mike Ryhal will likely go that route. Wednesday's effort by lawmakers, if signed into law, would not help him because it would be activated for the next election cycle.

"2012 will be remembered as the year it finally got bad enough that we had to something," said Ryhal. "It's been bad. But, now it's broken to the point where we have to start over."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)