SC Supreme Court could disqualify dozens of candidates

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) - Just six weeks before voters head to the polls for the South Carolina primaries, the candidates eligible to run for state and local offices are still unclear.

On Tuesday, South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit that could disqualify more than 100 Republican and Democratic hopefuls from the June 12 ballot.

"It's in the hands of the Supreme Court and there's no question there's an argument for both sides," said Chad Connelly, South Carolina GOP chairman.

Last month, two Lexington County residents sued the state Republican and Democratic parties and the South Carolina Election Commission, saying several candidates for state House and Senate seats did not properly file statements of economic interests. That paperwork documents income and other financial information.

The candidates did not file those statements at the same time they filed to run for office by a March 30 noon deadline. This is the first year of a new system requiring documents to be filed online with the State Ethics Commission, and the political parties did not check for them.

Incumbents already have their records on file, but the paperwork error could leave challengers in several key State House races on the outside looking in.

"This is the first year of the law change so there's inevitably going to be some confusion," said Phil Bailey, a Democratic strategist. "But, I didn't think it was going to be this widespread. It's going to be a unique situation. There are potentially going to be some high-profile races that all of a sudden uncontested."

The state Ethics Commission is working with the Republican and Democratic parties giving candidates until Friday to submit the proper economic interests form, but the lawsuit before the high court claims the law does not provide for such an extension.

"It seems to me that, in the past, they seemed to have erred on the side of ballot access. and with this many people involved in the whole conversation i find it hard to believe they'd throw them off the ballot. but, who knows?"

The South Carolina Supreme Court did not issue an opinion Tuesday. However, due to the time sensitive nature of the matter a decision from the high court is expected by the end of the week.

Do you think the candidates who failed to follow the letter of the law should be allowed to appear on the ballot? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)