Elections

Judge could soon order SC Republicans to hold 2020 primary

A group suing the South Carolina Republican Party over its cancellation of the GOP Republican presidential primary is asking a judge to file a permanent injunction, forcing the party to hold the contest.

That means Republican voters in the Palmetto State could find out before next Friday whether they will be able to vote for President Donald Trump’s challengers come February 2020.

The request for an injunction was filed Tuesday in a Richland County court. Typically, a judge will review the request for the injunction and make a decision within 10 days, meaning a decision could be made by next Friday, when the group has a hearing in Columbia.

The group also requested that a judge order the Republican Party to withdraw any delegate allocation plan it may have submitted to national GOP officials.

The initial lawsuit against the S.C. Republican party was filed Oct. 1 on behalf of former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis and Mount Pleasant businessman Frank Heindel, both Republicans. United to Protect Democracy, a non-profit focused on executive branch accountability, joined them on the lawsuit.

The group argued that canceling the GOP primary in the Palmetto State “deprived” Republican voters of their ability to vote for their preferred candidate. In the lawsuit, they argue that the Republican party broke both South Carolina law and their own rules by canceling the contest.

“We are asking the court to protect the rights of South Carolina Republican voters as quickly as possible,” Protect Democracy’s Soren Dayton said in a statement. “If the South Carolina GOP Executive Committee’s decision stands, they will have deprived Republican voters of their voice and forfeited South Carolina’s First in the South role to Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas, which are all scheduled to hold primaries on March 3, 2020.”

Joe Jackson, a spokesman for the S.C. GOP, said party officials do not comment on pending litigation.

On Sept. 7, the S.C. GOP executive committee voted 43-1 to cancel the primary. It is now one of six states — including Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and Virginia — to make that move.

After the vote, three of Trump’s opponents — former S.C. governor and former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh — voiced their displeasure, calling for party officials to reinstate the primaries.

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Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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