On September 25, 2020, United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. returned to Richland County Court the lawsuit that Johnnie Cordero brought against the Richland County Democratic Party and its Chair, Matt Kisner, and the South Carolina Democratic Party and its Chair Trav Robertson. The decision brings the case full-circle after the Defendants removed the matter to Federal District Court in an attempt to prevent the matter from being heard in state court.
Judge Anderson’s decision to send the case back to the state level, is a win for Cordero who brought the case in defense of the Democratic electorate in Richland County and across the state of South Carolina. The original suit asserts that Kisner, Robertson, and the Richland County and South Carolina Democratic parties violated state law when they made the decision to hold virtual conventions in the spring of 2020 and, in doing so, disenfranchised thousands of Richland County Democratic voters– particularly African American members of the party. There are over one million African American registered voters in South Carolina. The Democratic electorate in South Carolina is 66.7% African American. Richland County has an African American electorate of 143,000+.
“The State law claims are based on alleged violation of the South Carolina Election Laws by the defendants that served to disenfranchise thousands of African American voters. The defendants removed the lawsuit to federal district court to prevent the matter from being heard in state court where it was originally filed. Their strategy backfired. Now the state court will hear these matters more than five months after they were originally filed.” said Johnnie Cordero
In issuing his opinion, Judge Anderson dismissed the civil rights violations and instead noted that Kisner, Robertson, and the Richland County and South Carolina Democratic parties “never served an answer to the state law claims and declined jurisdiction.” The Magistrate found that “… Cordero raises numerous state law claims that, . . . are more appropriate for consideration in South Carolina courts because they include complex issues of state law. And that “. . .the state law claims involved interpretations of complex state statutes on which there was no state precedent.”
Cordero says that the judge’s decision reflects the importance of this case and that Kisner, Robertson, and the Richland County and South Carolina Democratic parties are obligated to follow the law in service to South Carolina’s Democratic voters and are duty-bound to ensure that all party members have equal access to participation in party activities. “I believe that Judge Anderson believes as I believe. This case has huge repercussions for all voters in South Carolina,” says Cordero. “Rather most people understand this case or not does not diminishes the fact that this is one of the most important cases of our lifetime.”