The state Election Commission decided Thursday to delay voting for the S.C. House seat once held by former House Speaker Bobby Harrell and hold a special election in December.
Candidate filing to succeed Harrell in a special Republican primary starts Tuesday, the same day when voters statewide cast ballots for all other races.
Mary Tinkler, the Democrat challenging for the House seat covering Charleston and Dorchester counties, filed a complaint with the S.C. Supreme Court late Thursday. She is trying to keep the election on Tuesday by overturning the unanimous decision of the five-member Election Commission, appointed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
“What the Election Commission did undermines the integrity of our election process,” Tinkler’s complaint said.
The commission voted Harrell was disqualified from the race after he resigned last week as part of a guilty plea agreement with state authorities. Harrell, once one of the state’s most powerful politicians, pleaded guilty to six counts of spending campaign money for personal use.
Because he was disqualified from the race, the commission called for a special election to allow the GOP to select another Republican nominee.
The House race featuring Harrell, Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edwards will appear on Tuesday’s ballot, but those votes won’t count. About 1,000 voters in the district already have submitted absentee ballots.
The special election would feature a new GOP nominee, Tinkler and Edwards.
The Election Commission chose to go ahead with a special election after receiving advice from attorneys who work for Republican state Attorney General Alan Wilson.
“This whole thing reeks of politics,” state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said.
He added Republicans were “getting a do-over” after sticking with Harrell, who was indicted in September, as their nominee.
State GOP Party chairman Matt Moore was pleased with the decision, adding the commission was following the letter of the law.
“The bigger picture is that voters get a choice,” Moore said. “It’s not about politics at all.”
But there’s a rub in the commission’s decision.
Under state law, the primary would be held Nov. 25 with a runoff, if needed, on Dec. 9. However, state law says a special general election must be held on Dec. 9.
The commission’s order, due about noon Friday, should address what would happen if the special general election is held after Dec. 9.