Concern of voter intimidation is not a novelty in politics. When elections may be close, supporters of a proposition may sometimes attempt to influence the election by giving voters an incentive to go to the ballot box for their cause. When these types of allegations occur, they often cause the people to view election results as “fishy”. In South Carolina, a recent school board referendum in Laurens County, situated in the northwest corridor of the state, was fishy. Rather, while the election results were not close, opponents of a failed tax referendum were accused of influencing voters by offering free fish sandwiches to those who voted. Continue reading
Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes. Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required. The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied. South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court.
The idea of swearing or singing an oath pledging loyalty and allegiance to a person, a place, or even an ideal may seem like a vestige of a bygone era where cold war tensions were high and the threat to the American way of life was constantly under attack, even in our own homes. However, loyalty oaths are still commonplace in the bustling, fast paced world in which we live. Many loyalty oaths are only required of certain elected officials and government employees so it easy to overlook how prevalent loyalty oaths are and the important role they play both in a historical context and today.
Greenville, South Carolina, will become the largest municipality in South Carolina to cancel an election this upcoming November. Mayor Knox White and three members of the City Council are running unopposed and will take office without going through a formal election process.
Among the states, a relative variety exists in the methods employed for selecting state court judges, including partisan elections, nonpartisan elections, gubernatorial appointment, merit-selection systems, and legislative appointment. Out of these, merit-selection systems are the most popular, with over twenty-five states adhering to this process. Judicial elections are the second most common scheme with at least twenty-one states utilizing either partisan or nonpartisan elections to choose their state court judges. The least common system is legislative appointment; only Virginia and South Carolina delegate appointment of the judiciary to state legislators.
A recent case out of South Carolina is drawing attention to the potential impact of open primaries on election results. South Carolina law does not require voters to formally register with a particular political party in order to cast a vote in a primary. A system in which voters can select the primary they wish to vote in regardless of party affiliation is called an open primary system. Open primary systems sometimes draw criticism because they can allow voters to engage in so-called crossover voting. Crossover voting occurs when members of one political party deliberately vote for a candidate they perceive to be weaker in an opposing party’s primary in order to give their candidate an advantage. It is important to note that voters in an open primary system do have to select only one primary in which to vote, so crossover voting naturally removes a voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot for the actual candidate of her choice in her own party’s primary. Exit polls provide evidence that voters have crossed party lines during primaries in South Carolina. For example, despite South Carolina’s traditionally conservative electorate, nearly 30% of the voters in the Republican presidential primary in 2012 were either Democrats or Independents. Further, nearly a quarter of the independents chose Ron Paul as their candidate of choice, rather than the eventual winner in the primary, Newt Gingrich. Continue reading
Last November, Richland County residents seeking to participate in local elections encountered an unanticipated hindrance at polling stations: stagnant lines of voters unable to cast their ballots because of malfunctioning voting machines. The lines reportedly were so outrageous that some residents had to wait upwards of seven hours to vote. Many voters grew impatient and left polling stations without submitting a ballot. Moreover, the disarray was hardly confined to election day. In the week after polls closed, a court-ordered recount of the election results sparked a back-and-forth legal battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a local or statewide election agency should be tasked with tallying the votes in the recount. The dispute was not settled until the South Carolina Supreme Court intervened, and nearly two weeks elapsed before the election results were finalized. Continue reading
The battle over Texas’s controversial new voter identification bill should be over. Instead, it appears to be heating up.
Senate Bill 14 amends the Texas Election Code, requiring voters to present an approved form of photo identification to cast a ballot in state elections. Voters may rely on most forms of commonly-used government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Voters who are unwilling, or unable, to pay for identification are also covered; the bill creates a new form of identification called an “election identification certificate” which can be obtained at no cost from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Both the Texas House and Senate approved the bill and its photo identification requirements, following months of heated debate across the state. And, on May 27, Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law. Notwithstanding any post-enactment court challenges, gubernatorial endorsement is the final step in the legislative process—or at least that’s how things usually work in Texas. Continue reading
On May 11, 2011, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act R54. The new law would require individuals to present photo identification to vote. Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill a week later. The Department of Justice has yet to pre-clear the new law, stating that it needs proof from South Carolina that Act R54 would not disenfranchise voters. Valid forms of identification include a South Carolina driver’s license, a passport, military identification, a voter registration card with a photograph, or another form of photographic identification from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Chris Whitmire, Director of Public Relations and Training at the South Carolina State Election Commission (SCSEC), spoke to me about the preparations taking place if the law is pre-cleared. These preparations include training county election officials, notifying registered voters without proper identification through direct mail, and a social media campaign about the new law. The General Assembly allocated $535,000 to the SCSEC for the voter education campaign and the creation of new voter registration cards that contain a photograph of the voter.
Registered voters would be able to obtain the new voter registration cards with the same documents they now use to register to vote (these include a photo ID or documents like a utility bill or pay stub with their address printed on it.) This makes the new identification easier to obtain than other government-issued forms of identification. Another unique feature of the new card is that it will not expire. Continue reading