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Federal Court Asked to Stop Special Election for Columbia, South Carolina City Council

Published on March 31, 2010, by in General.

Columbia, South Carolina is holding its regular election for city officers on April 6. One city council district, district 2, was not scheduled to have an election this year. However, the incumbent resigned abruptly on March 9. The city then set a special election for that district for April 6, giving candidates only 4 days to file.

On March 29, a federal lawsuit was filed to stop the special election. See this story. Plaintiffs charge that the election cannot be fair because potential candidates had such a narrow window in which to file. However, the basis for the federal lawsuit is that the city has changed its procedures for this special election and did not pre-clear those changes with the U.S. Justice Department. Absentee voting had already started for the regularly city election, and voters who already voted, who live in District 2, were given ballots that didn’t even include the special election.

One Response

  1. Jim Riley

    An interesting case. State law required that the special election be held on the same date as a regular election that occurs within 120 days of the vacancy. State law also has various setback requirements that are in conflict with holding an election within a month.

    A state district court had blocked the election, but that decision had been appealed to the SC Supreme Court that ordered the election to be held on April 6. One of the persons who had appealed to the Supreme Court had been a plaintiff in a civil rights case 30 years ago that had resulted in district elections, and compared his elation over the Supreme Court decision for an April 6 election as similar to his feeling when the district election case was won in 1980.

    The district in question is apparently a predominantly black district, since all 7 candidates are black (an 8th candidate missed the filing deadline by 2 minutes).

    The city council member who resigned in March (related to federal tax evasion charges), had served for 27 years, ever since the district had been created.

    The city had filed for preclearance with the USDOJ on March 10. The new lawsuit claims that the city should have filed for all the other procedural changes that they had made to fit the election in.

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