For Immediate Release
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South Carolina Candidate Oath Law Violates Free Association Rights, Argues ACLU
COLUMBIA, SC - The American Civil Liberties Union argued before the South Carolina
Supreme Court today that a South Carolina candidate oath law is
unconstitutional and was unconstitutionally applied to state
legislature candidate Eugene Platt. The law requires every candidate
for office to sign an oath to abide by the results of a party's primary
and if the candidate loses the party's primary, bars the candidate from
petitioning or campaigning as a write-in candidate for the general
election ballot for any office for which the party has a nominee.
"The candidate oath law unconstitutionally violates the right of voters
and parties to select the candidates of their choosing," said Bryan
Sells, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project who
argued the case. "The First Amendment provides special protection for
the process in which a political party selects a nominee that best
represents its ideology and preferences."
South Carolina is one of only four states that permit fusion voting,
allowing multiple political parties to nominate the same candidate;
however, the state's candidate oath law unconstitutionally bars a
candidate from having his or her name placed on the general election
ballot by another political party even if the candidate wins the other
Platt was chosen by the Green Party as its candidate for a state
legislative house seat and subsequently lost the nomination for the
same office in the Democratic primary. Under the oath statute, a state
court barred Platt from running as the nominee for the Green Party and
denied him the opportunity to present evidence that he was not in
violation of the oath, although Platt had not allowed his name to be
placed on the general election ballot by petition and had not
campaigned as a write-in candidate.
The ACLU charges that the oath statute was applied without due process
and imposes an unjustified burden on the First Amendment's free
association rights of Platt and voters who supported him, as well as
the Green Party's right to select its preferred candidate.
"South Carolina's election scheme rejects the First Amendment's
fundamental protections and makes the outcome of one party's primary
dependent on the outcome of every other party's nominating process,"
said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
"The real losers here are the democratic process and the voters of
South Carolina who are being denied greater choices at the ballot box."
Attorneys on the case are Sells and McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
The legal documents in the case, Tempel v. Platt, are available at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/access/36353res20080807.html
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.