The American Civil Liberties Union is trying to come up with a legal challenge to Columbia's hastily called April 6 election for District 2.
"We have received complaints and I am looking into it, but we haven't reached any decision about what we think is appropriate to do," said Laughlin McDonald, director of the Southern Regional ACLU in Atlanta. "I think I need to know more about the facts and more about the law before we make a decision."
Critics have urged the city to hold the election at a later date to give candidates and voters more time to learn about one another.
State and city law seem to contradict each other. On the one hand, state law says: "A vacancy in the office of mayor or council shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term at the next regular election or at a special election if the vacancy occurs one hundred eighty days or more prior to the next general election."
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On the other hand, state law also says:
"Public notice of the elections shall be given at least sixty days prior to such elections."
E.W. Cromartie, who held the seat for 27 years, resigned Tuesday. The next general election is 24 days away.
"They have no perfect choices, given the facts they've been dealt," said Helen McFadden, a Charleston attorney who is an expert on election law.
One question swirling among would-be challengers in District 2: What about the absentee voters? Absentee voting for other seats in the April 6 election, including mayor, had already started when Cromartie resigned.
Voters who live in Districts 1, 3 and 4 can vote absentee now in those districts as well as for mayor and one of the council's at-large seats.
But Richland County election officials said Thursday voters in District 2 will have to wait until March 22, the Monday after next week's filing period closes for the District 2 seat.
But state law does not specify how far in advance of an election officials must provide absentee voting, said Gary Baum, director of public information and training for the South Carolina Election Commission.
The practice in Richland County has been 30 days in advance, according to county elections director Mike Cinnamon.
With no timetable regarding absentee balloting, that means there is no absentee ballot law for the city to break.
Regardless, Mayor Bob Coble said Friday he would welcome a lawsuit - just so the city could get some clarification from the court.
"Quit complaining," he said. "Come on and bring a legal challenge."