In an emergency, the governor may declare a new time and date for an election. S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-1170:
Without a doubt, the Coronavirus is causing unprecedented devastation to the lives of South Carolina’s citizens to the point that, on March 13, 2020, Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency. Two days later, he ordered a two and half week closure of all public schools. Then, on March 22, he issued an executive order extending the filing deadline for South Carolina income taxes to July 15, 2020. This is inarguably an emergency. Yet, there is still one area that, to my knowledge, has not been addressed — The statewide primary election scheduled for June 9, 2020.
June 9, 2020, of course, it’s less than 60 days away and anything can happen within the next two months. However, the disruption caused by the international fight against COVID-19 has made it nearly impossible for candidates vying for local and statewide offices to run viable campaigns. Volunteers cannot canvas, fundraisers can’t host events, candidates can’t hold town halls and rallies.
At first glance, it may appear that these constraints have less of an impact on incumbent candidates because these are people who have already had an opportunity to build a rapport with voters. But a peek just below the surface shows that the adverse effects of this pandemic is impacting all candidates of all parties across the board and the candidates’ inability to truly run campaigns ultimately puts South Carolina voters at the disadvantage of not being able to fully vet all of the candidates that will appear on ballots in June.
A failure to give all candidates the opportunity to run strong campaigns is a betrayal to all those candidates, the supporters who volunteered their time, the donors who gave money, the voters of South Carolina and, most importantly, it is a betrayal to the principles of democracy that we all hold dearJohnnie Cordero
In the end, it becomes a blow to Democracy because Democracy is at it’s best when citizens across the state can be truly involved in the process. When ordinary citizens are willing to put their communities first, put service before self, and make their case before the people who will ultimately hold them accountable.
Regardless of affiliation, the South Carolinians who have put their names on the ballot to run for office are, indeed, party loyalists who have offered themselves up for service out of a commitment to the party of their choosing. They have paid filing fees and asked supporters and the voting public to donate to their campaigns. These are candidates who have invested their money and their time into strengthening their parties because they believe in the promise of democracy. What’s more, the voters, donors, and organizations who have contributed to these candidates have done so out of a belief in their candidate of choice and the principles guiding the party of their choice.
Now is not the time to turn or back on them or on the democracy on which our state was built. Stress-levels are high, focus is elsewhere, state and local mandates are restricting how voters can access information and the truth of the matter is that voters across South Carolina, and the candidates competing for their support, simply deserve more. More time to devote their attention to the decision makers of our future, more time to campaign and more opportunities to allow democracy to thrive.
A failure to give all candidates the opportunity to run strong campaigns is a betrayal to all those candidates, the supporters who volunteered their time, the donors who gave money, the voters of South Carolina and, most importantly, it is a betrayal to the principles of democracy that we all hold dear. And now, more than ever, we must ensure that South Carolinians retain their faith in our government, that democracy is upheld and that our democratic values guide our decision making. After all, the very bedrock of our democracy is a healthy and fair election process.
This is why I strongly urge all candidates –incumbents and challengers, alike– along with voters and party officials to join me and the black caucus in calling for the Governor to reschedule the statewide primary to a date in the future that will allow candidates the same length of time to campaign that they would have had in the absence of the pandemic. In this way, all candidates will have equal time to campaign and incumbents will not have an unfair advantage.
In close, I ask that all candidates, incumbents and party loyalists in both parties ask the Governor to continue to protect our democracy by emailing, calling, texting their respective party chairman to urge the Governor to reschedule the state’s primary.
Johnnie Cordero, Chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina