The South Carolina United Citizens decided in a democratic process to put Kevin Alexander Gray on their ballot as their candidate for Governor in this fall’s election. Mr. Gray accepted the nomination. But according to the State Election Commission, South Carolina voters won’t see him on the UCP ballot on November 5th.
The bone of contention is Mr Gray’s Statement of Intention of Candidacy. According to Garry Baum of the SC Election Commission, ” Mr. Gray would have had to file for this office between noon, March 16 and noon, March 30, 2002. Because Mr. Gray did not file for this office in a timely manner, the State Election Commission cannot place his name on the ballot.”
For a major party that has primaries and needs time to print ballots, that rule makes sense. But the UCP chooses its candidates at its nominating convention. The rule that should protect it is likely to prevent its members from exercising their constitutional right to voice their beliefs.
To add to Gray’s troubles, the Commission initially indicated that he would be able to appear on the UCP ballot. Supporters had already collected 5,000 signatures on a petition to have him listed as an Independent candidate. When they heard the “good news”, they understandably slowed their efforts. With only five days left before the deadline, there may not be time to collect the required 10,000 signatures.
Gerald Rudolph, the party’s State Treasurer and a key member of Gray’s campaign, believes the Commission’s decision is based on more than bureaucratic inflexibility: “The Hodges appointee, Marlon Kimpson, decided to ignore the published opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States and deprive African-Americans, poor, and working class people of the rights of assembly that are guaranteed by our constitution. These are the same African-Americans, poor, and working class people that the Democratic party has been ignoring as they courted the favor of the wealthy and powerful. It is no wonder they don’t want a third party candidate for governor.”
United Citizens Co-Chair Mike Avey has requested a formal hearing and ruling from the State Election Board and has reminded the Commission that there have been many recent court decisions upholding the right of political parties to choose their candidates without interference from the State.