PICKENS COUNTY — Pickens County Council passed a resolution to draft a letter asking the Pickens County Delegation to consider submitting a bill to the State House and Senate that would allow newly elected officials to take office sooner.
“Basically we’re just asking that the state delegation go back and consider a bill that would allow for members of Pickens County Council to assume their duties as soon after the election as possible,” said County Council Chairman Roy Costner. “In other words you (currently) have an election in November — and you have to wait until January.”
Costner argued the current system didn’t work that way for other elected officials like school board members.
During discussion, Councilman Trey Whitehurst expressed concern about the resolution saying it was prudent to first do some research and find out if there was a reason the law was set up with the time gap in the first place.
“I understand we like to get people into office and get them going, but there may be a reason for why it is the way it is,” Whitehurst said.
Costner said, according to the South Carolina Association of Counties, the current system of waiting was not “policy” — but state law.
“It is a law, it’s been in place forever — I asked for the reason as to why the law was created and they (SCAC) didn’t know,” said Costner. “It’s just always been like that.”
Traditionally, an elected official who has been ousted by voters — but their replacement has yet to be sworn in — is known as a “lame duck,” named after an 18th Century stockbroker at the London Stock Exchange who had defaulted on his debts.
The term was first applied to politicians in the 19th Century when the Congressional Globe wrote: “In no event … could (the Court of Claims) be justly obnoxious to the charge of being a receptacle of ‘lame ducks’ or broken down politicians.”
It can create an uncomfortable situation in government settings as these officials retain all of the power of their office for the next couple of months — despite voters’ wishes.
But, as it turns out, there is a reason for the space between elections and swearing in — and it goes all the way to the top.
Federal and state laws to ensure the peaceful transition of power after an election have changed throughout the years, but they all stem from the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. According to state legislature records, many states — including South Carolina — simply patterned election laws after the national standard.
“This isn’t something that we vote on tonight,” Costner said. “This is saying we support the idea.”
The resolution passed unanimously.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.