Case: Bailey v. Andino

20-00642 | South Carolina state trial court

Filed Date: April 22, 2020

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Case Summary

COVID-19 Summary: On April 22, 2020, two Democratic candidates, the South Carolina Democratic Party, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed this lawsuit against the South Carolina State Election Commission. The petitioners sought declaratory relief that in the context of the COVID-19, all South Carolina voters are physically disabled persons within the meaning of the South Carolina statute and are eligible to vote absentee. The Supreme Court of South Carolina dismissed the ca…

COVID-19 Summary: On April 22, 2020, two Democratic candidates, the South Carolina Democratic Party, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed this lawsuit against the South Carolina State Election Commission. The petitioners sought declaratory relief that in the context of the COVID-19, all South Carolina voters are physically disabled persons within the meaning of the South Carolina statute and are eligible to vote absentee. The Supreme Court of South Carolina dismissed the case on May 27.


On April 22, 2020, two Democratic candidates, the South Carolina Democratic Party, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed this lawsuit against the South Carolina State Election Commission at the South Carolina Supreme Court. The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit under South Carolina law, arguing that the existing statutes governing absentee voting permitted all South Carolina registered voters to vote by absentee ballot in the June 9 primary election and November 3 general election. Plaintiffs also implicitly contended that if existing law did not permit this, it should in light of COVID-19. The plaintiffs sought relief declaring that in the context of the COVID-19, all South Carolina voters practicing social distancing are physically disabled persons within the meaning of the South Carolina statute and are eligible to vote absentee if they did not wish to vote in person on election day because of COVID-19. The plaintiffs were represented by private attorneys and also sought attorney fees.

The South Carolina Republican Party intervened and filed a motion to dismiss, and the Attorney General submitted an amicus curiae memorandum.

On May 12, oral argument was held. During that time, both the House and the Senate enacted legislation to temporarily change the law, and the new bill allowing more liberal use of absentee ballots for the June primary election was signed by the Governor on May 13. Under the new bill, a qualified elector must be permitted to vote by absentee ballot in an election if the qualified elector's place of residence or polling place was located in an area subject to a state of emergency declared by the Governor and there are fewer than forty-six days remaining until the date of the election. However, this legislation expired on July 1, with legislative sessions to resume in September to decide whether a similar revision should be made for the November general election.

On May 27, the case was dismissed on the ground that it did not present a justiciable controversy. The Court noted that “the fact the Legislature changed the law to permit every voter to vote in the primary by absentee ballot is a clear indication the absentee voting statutes did not already permit that.” Therefore, while the Court recognized that statutory interpretation was a judicial question, the Legislature had already considered and answered the question with clarity, rendering no justiciable controversy.

Judge Kaye G. Hearn concurred in part and dissented in part, saying that the majority acted in haste to dismiss the allegations that the current election code may affect free and fair elections in the fall.

Summary Authors

Averyn Lee (7/5/2020)

People


Judge(s)

Beatty, Donald W. (South Carolina)

Few, John C (South Carolina)

James, George C. (South Carolina)

Kittredge, John W. (South Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bryant, Christopher James (District of Columbia)

Elias, Marc Erik (District of Columbia)

Smith, K’Shaani O (District of Columbia)

Spiva, Bruce V. (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Beatty, Donald W. (South Carolina)

Few, John C (South Carolina)

James, George C. (South Carolina)

Kittredge, John W. (South Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bryant, Christopher James (District of Columbia)

Elias, Marc Erik (District of Columbia)

Smith, K’Shaani O (District of Columbia)

Spiva, Bruce V. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Petition for Original Jurisdiction - Emergency Relief Requested

South Carolina state supreme court

April 22, 2020 Complaint

Opinion

South Carolina state supreme court

May 27, 2020 Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: South Carolina

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Special Collection(s):

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 22, 2020

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

two Democratic candidates, the South Carolina Democratic Party, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

South Carolina State Election Commission, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Voting

Voting access

Voting:

Election administration

Voter qualifications