Court Removes Ballot Obstacle for Alternative Parties in South Carolina

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Court Removes Ballot Obstacle for Alternative Parties in South Carolina

Order Issued After ACLU Challenge

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A
federal court in South Carolina today blocked implementation of the
state's requirement that political candidates formally notify the state
elections commission, in advance of the primary election, of each party
that might choose to nominate them and whose nomination they may seek.
The court issued the injunction after the American Civil Liberties
Union filed a lawsuit charging that the requirement violates the
preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and that
it severely impairs alternative political parties' ability to get their
candidates on the ballot in violation of the free speech protections of
U.S. Constitution.

"The evidence clearly supports the
court's conclusion that the state failed to comply with the Voting
Rights Act," said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights
Project. "Many alternative parties do not choose a candidate until
after the major parties have their primaries. Requiring candidates to
submit their intention to run for each party before the primaries makes
it virtually impossible for alternative parties to have the candidate
of their choice on the ballot."

South Carolina is one of only four
states that permit fusion voting, allowing multiple political parties
to nominate the same candidate. However, requiring Statement of
Intention of Candidacy forms prior to the primaries has the practical
effect of barring electoral fusion because alternative parties, which
often choose to cross-nominate the winner of a major political party's
primary, cannot know who the major party candidate in the general
election will be before the primaries actually take place, and cannot
put a candidate who hasn't filed multiple intention forms on its
ballot.

The South Carolina State Elections
Commission did not require multiple Statement of Intention of Candidacy
forms until April 2008. Prior to that date, only one form was required
stating a candidate's intention to run for a particular party, but
candidates could run for any other party that wished to cross-nominate
them. The ACLU charges that the change is unlawful because South
Carolina has a history of discrimination in its voting procedures, and
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that all changes the state
wishes to implement must first be precleared by the federal government.

The ACLU also charges that the
requirement imposes an unjustified burden on the First Amendment's free
speech and association rights of candidates as well as political
parties and voters to select the preferred candidates of their choice.

"South Carolina's requirement
rejects the First Amendment's fundamental protections and effectively
blocks fusion voting in the state," said Bryan Sells, staff attorney
with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Today's order by the federal
court protects the democratic process and the voters of South Carolina."

Attorneys on the case are McDonald and Sells of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

The U. S. District Court for the District of South Carolina's ruling in the case, Gray et al v. South Carolina State Election Commission et al, is available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/gray-et-al-v-south-carolina-state-election-commission-et-al-order

The ACLU's complaint in the case is available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/gray-et-al-v-south-carolina-state-election-commission-et-al-complaint

More information on the work of the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at: www.votingrights.org

###

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Share This Article

More in: