As we head into the Columbia election on Tuesday, the Legislature continues to deny voters their constitutional right to vote. In 2016, I was kept from voting for president due to a 1982 law that forbids voters from exercising a write in vote for president. This year, Mayor Steve Benjamin has been declared the winner by election officials, based on a 2003 law (Section 7-13-190E) that says a municipal election must be canceled and the candidate declared the winner if he is the only one who filed and if no one declared a write-in campaign within two weeks after the close of filing.
This is crazy in supposedly democratic America. Candidates don’t unilaterally set themselves up as kings. Neither does the Legislature. The voice of the electorate determines the winner. The fact that people decide to run for office doesn’t mean the people want them. Mayor Benjamin is being reelected without receiving a single vote. His tenure is given no legitimacy by the people.
In 2005, the attorney general said this law was “constitutionally suspect” because the state constitution promises every qualified voter “an equal right to elect officers and be elected to public office.” The Legislature deleted this unconstitutional law in this past session but chose not to make it effective until January — after the Columbia mayor’s non-election.