Raye Felder, Republican candidate for S.C. House District 26, is one of dozens of candidates around the state under fire for failing to file a Statement of Economic Interest form by the March 30 deadline.
State law says that candidates must file statements of economic interests when they file to run for office. Felder, of Fort Mill, didn’t file a Statement of Economic Interests form until April 9.
She argues that the South Carolina Ethics Commission website is unclear. On the Ethics Commission website, the 2012 calendar lists April 15 with the description “2012 Statement of Economic Interests Forms Due.”
“I don’t understand it at all. It doesn’t make sense to me. I’m new in politics, so I just did what I read,” Felder said. “According to the website, I had until the 15th.”
State law says those who fail to file on time will have their names left off the ballot. But earlier this month, the commission said it would give candidates 10 additional days to file the form.
That decision prompted two lawsuits so far – one against the S.C. Democratic Party and a second against the S.C. Republican Party – to keep the names of a handful of Republicans and Democrats running for Lexington County state House races off June’s primary ballot.
The lawsuits say that the law is clear that candidates must file their statement of economic interest forms at the time they file to run for office. The required forms list candidates’ incomes and other financial information and property holdings.
Felder’s Statement of Economic Interests lists no personal income, family income, benefit items or property to disclose.
If the lawsuits prove successful, the names of dozens of candidates at the local and state levels could be left off the ballot in this year’s primary and general elections, including Felder’s.
“I’m concerned as to why this wasn’t more properly conveyed,” Felder said. “Why isn’t this information consistent? It seems again that we’re spending our time and energy and resources on a problem created from an oversight. How do you put it on your calendar as [April] 15th and then expect it by [March] 30th?”
Richards McCrae, the filing chairman for the York County Democratic Party, said the problem affects Democrats and Republicans. But regardless of party affiliation, he said, candidates must follow the state statute.
“The filing requirements were made clear to us prior to March 16, and we were well aware of what all our candidates had to do to be eligible on the ballot. The only fair thing is for all candidates regardless of party affiliation to be held to the same rules and standards,” McCrae said.
The calendar that tripped Felder up “doesn’t help,” he said.
“But in this situation where the state has set forth specific and technical requirements for a candidate to appear on the ballot, it is incumbent on a candidate to look at the statute and see what it says,” McCrae said.
Felder faces one opponent in the election, Libertarian candidate Jeremy Walters, who filed a Statement of Economic Interests on March 15.
York County Registration and Elections Director Wanda Hemphill said if Felder is removed from the ballot, she isn’t sure whether the election would proceed as scheduled or if the special circumstances would trigger a change in the election process.
“We’ve never had to deal with that,” Hemphill said. “I’m sure if that happened there would be many other counties involved and the state election commission would give some directive on how to proceed.”
The (Columbia) State newspaper contributed