COLUMBIA — South Carolina lacks the authority to conduct a 2012 presidential primary, according to a lawsuit filed by four counties at the state Supreme Court.
Officials from Beaufort, Chester, Greenville and Spartanburg counties, in a case filed Monday, argue a 2008 primary law doesn’t apply to running a 2012 primary. They argue the state Election Commission lacks the authority to conduct the primary and enter a contract with the state Republican Party to pay for it. And they say the commission can’t require counties to cover expenses for the GOP primary, which they say will cost more than $2 million.
The counties said they “are on the precipice of having to expend precious public funds to conduct what is wholly a private function on behalf of a private political party.” The lawsuit names the state Election Commission and the state Republican and Democratic parties.
State GOP Executive Director Matt Moore said the primary is part of the state’s law.
“It’s clearly written in this year’s budget law that the state should be involved with the 2012 primary, so any claim otherwise is wrong,” he said. He said the primary is an important public function, not a private operation.
The litigation was filed hours after a meeting between county voting officials and the state Election Commission and caps weeks of arguments about counties getting stuck with the tab for putting on the primary.
The Supreme Court has not decided to hear the case. If it did, and ruled in the counties’ favor, legislators could be forced to come into session to pass a special primary law as deadlines loom for the Jan. 21 contest.