Labor Party and state election officials asked a Richland County judge Tuesday to deny the South Carolina Democratic Party’s request to remove Labor Party candidates from November’s ballot so that the state can move forward and prepare ballots.
The request was made toward the end of a hearing before Judge Allison Lee, who said she would decide soon whether to remove three Labor Party candidates from the November ballot.
The South Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit last week to remove Labor Party nominee for governor Gary Votour, his lieutenant governor running mate Harold Geddings and 1st Congressional District candidate Lucus Faulk from the ballot. The party argued in its lawsuit that the Labor Party did not hold a nominating convention by a May 15 deadline.
State Election Commission attorney Liz Crum asked Lee to deny a preliminary injunction because the election commission needs to start preparing ballots so election offices can send them to overseas and military voters by Sept. 24. The work would have started Monday, but has been delayed because of the court case.
“So the election commission has a tremendous task of getting all the ballots statewide prepared in time to get them to the counties for them to have a couple of days to get them out to the voters,” Crum said. “We are on a tight time frame.”
Votour said the Labor Party plans to appeal if the Democratic Party’s request is granted.
The state’s Democratic Party contends the Labor Party did not hold its nominating convention in time for the candidates to be on the ballot.
“This issue is narrow. It has to do with deadlines prescribed by statute, specifically the May 15 deadline to hold a nominating convention if that is what a party chooses to do,” said Chris Kenney, an attorney for the South Carolina Democratic Party, who works in state Sen. Harpootlian’s Columbia law firm. Harpootlian is a former chairman of the party.
The State Election Commission received paperwork from the Labor Party leaders certifying candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and the 1st Congressional District a couple of weeks prior to an Aug. 15 certification deadline.
Labor Party leadership had a dispute over whether they should have candidates run in this election and initially opted against it. However, Votour and Faulk filed to run and the party’s Co-Chair Donna Dewitt and other party officials opted to have a nominating convention in July to certify them.
Votour, who said the Labor Party was unable to find a lawyer to represent them, also said this is an internal Labor Party issue that should not involve the state Democratic Party.
“This is a dangerous precedent to set for the court system to be used by one party to take another party’s candidate off the ballot,” Votour said.
After the hearing, Dewitt said any five members could call for a convention at any time they want, and said the May 15 deadline did not apply.
Labor Party Co-Chair Willie Legette, who testified Tuesday on behalf of the state Democratic Party, has said the decision was made to not have anyone on the ballot because they did not want to take away votes from Democratic candidates and ensure Republican victories.
“The Labor Party was very conscious (and) very deliberate not to be a fringe political party and run candidates just to say that the party has candidates,” Legette said. “We, as the Labor Party, don’t want to be a political joke.”