Top lawmakers question higher-ed agency’s town halls, dire claims

By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | A statewide campaign intended shed light on the state’s rising college costs could fall on deaf ears in the S.C. House, according to two top lawmakers.

The issue of whether the state should provide more subsidies for tuition and fees for its 33 public colleges is ramping up to be a loud, long public battle. Lawmakers and the state’s college oversight agency say the issue will likely remain unsolved this legislative session as attention is diverted to other issues.

CHE has town halls to draw attention to finding

In the meantime, the Commission on Higher Education says it has set out on a fact-finding mission intended to draw attention to the issue.

“We believe that before you can address these issues — these problems, you got to recognize you have (a problem),” CHE Chair Tim Hofferth of Chapin said in an interview. “I’m not sure all leaders believe we have a problem … Somebody needs to begin the painstaking process of coming up with recommendations to treat the problem.”

The commission has hosted three of eight planned town halls around the state, gaining headlines like “Why colleges and their state oversight agency are clashing” and “Higher ed commission predicts ‘financial knife fight.’” At the town halls, the commission is taking this message to the people: attending public college in South Carolina has become too pricey and the state’s public institutions could be on the verge of collapse, unless they curb spending. It’s a message that has put it at odds with many public colleges around the state.

The goal is to help inform future action for the commission and the state, CHE interim president Jeff Schilz told Statehouse Report Thursday.

"We hear these stories from people all the time as I talk to legislators; they hear these stories as well,” he said. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to go around the state and go out and hear what the people are really dealing with."

South Carolina’s public colleges have some of the most expensive tuition and fees in the nation, according to a 2018 state-by-state comparison from Simple Thrifty Living. In the last 10 years since the Great Recession, state dollars for those colleges have dropped 33 percent — or about $225 million, according to an August report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. South Carolina funds less than 6 percent of college revenues, while some neighboring universities get up to one-fifth of their funding from public tax dollars, according to S.C. House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson.

For CHE, the town halls and the tough stance on college spending are needed to begin addressing the problem of rising tuitions and fees.

CHE playing with fire?

But the town halls and the related attention-grabbing headlines have some lawmakers questioning the CHE’s role. For 50 years, the CHE has acted as the General Assembly’s oversight agency and an advocate for higher education.

“(Colleges are) having to get more and more and more from mom and dad than they are from the state of South Carolina,” White said. “CHE is beating that drum, ‘Well they’re charging too much, charging too much.’ Well, part of your job is to say, ‘Hey, they need more money from the state so they don't have to charge more in tuition,’ but they're not doing that.”

White said he takes issue that the CHE is not asking for more state funds but instead choosing to question spending by colleges. He said the commission isn’t in the classrooms, and that in 10 years, he hasn’t seen the commission advocate on behalf of the colleges to get more state dollars.

Ways and Means Vice Chair Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said the town halls aren’t doing CHE any favors in winning support from lawmakers or the colleges. Cobb-Hunter said there’s a talk of commission overreach but she said she supports the CHE’s town halls.

"I can see the case that they see (the town halls) as part of their roles. They see it as stepping into a vacuum, meaning who else is doing it?” Cobb-Hunter said.

A disconnect between colleges and CHE

Where she and others have a problem is with the warring information between CHE and the public colleges.

"There may be an issue with the information they are providing and I’ve heard disagreement from the universities on how that information is both captured and presented, but that’s separate from whether CHE ought to be doing it,” Cobb-Hunter said.

She said the town halls may have been more effective if CHE involved the universities and lawmakers.

"I’d be very surprised if the town halls had the effect on the legislature that CHE seems to think they will have,” she said, adding there would be "even less" of an effect for university leaders.

White said CHE has been a poor advocate for the state’s public colleges and should be pushing for more state money to help students. But Hofferth said before CHE can advocate for more funds, there should be an examination of costs.

"We have to get our hands around these skyrocketing costs,” Hofferth said.

He bristled at the suggestion that CHE is not advocating for public colleges.

"Nobody appreciates our higher ed institutions more than the commission and our staff," Hofferth said. "We want to make sure they’re healthy … Right now, they don’t need another cheerleader.”

It's a tight budget year; Conservation Bank moves forward

Staff reports | A report from the state budgeting agency has shown that a much-feared projected shortfall is no longer a factor that will affect the 2018-2019 budget. In fact, there could be a $58 million windfall based on current projections — which shows growth of general fund revenue at 6 percent rather than the predicted 4.6 percent.

On Feb. 15, the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office’s Board of Economic Advisors released what is its final forecast before the S.C. House drafts next year’s budget. Any shortfall in the current year’s budget would have to be made up in the 2018-18 budget, but now it looks like lawmakers won’t have to rob next year’s revenues to pay this year’s bills.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means committee begins work on the budget. In an interview this week, committee Chair Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said the state budget will remain tight, despite the sunnier forecast for this year’s budget. He said big-ticket items, such as K-12 education, health care and law enforcement, will eat up the lion’s share of any new dollars. Health care and pension reform are expected to have big increases this year.

White said he would be surprised if there would be more than $200 million left over after dealing with many of the recurring and must-fund items.

“It goes away fast,” White said of discretionary funding, which often goes toward salary increases and other items at state agencies.

House votes to reauthorize Conservation Bank

House members this week voted 107-3 to keep the state's Conservation Bank open. The bill, a similar version of which was introduced last year as a priority in the Senate, now heads to the Senate.

"Passage of the original Conservation Bank legislation in 2002 was made possible when businesses and citizens combined forces and convinced a bipartisan majority of legislators to support protecting special places around the state," S.C. Wildlife Federation Executive Director Ben Gregg told his members this week. "It is heartening to see history begin to repeat itself in 2018."

Under the House-passed bill, the bank would not face sunsetting of its function, but it would lose its dedicated source of funding. The companion Senate bill would keep the dedicated source of funding and maintain the sunset.

"We are a big step closer to extending the life of this state agency that has been the single most important factor in the preservation and conservation of some of our most precious natural resources," Gregg said. "We are grateful for the overwhelming vote in the House today and especially for the leadership of Rep. Brian White and others who championed the Conservation Bank."

AHEAD: House moving forward on budget

By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | The House has cleared much of its nuclear legislation and is now moving into the budget process, according to S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. She called much of the bills on the calendar for next week "a bunch of nothing-burgers."

The House Ways and Means Committee, which Cobb-Hunter is vice chair of, will begin budget work 11 a.m. Feb. 20, in room 521 in the Blatt building.

Here are a few other items on the calendar for next week:

Telemedicine. The full House Medical, Military and Public Municipal Affairs Committee meets 2:30 p.m. Feb. 20, in room 427 in the Blatt building to discuss a bill that would allow telemedicine in the state, which has received favorable reporting from subcommittee.

Opioids. A House subcommittee will begin consideration of several measures aimed at helping the state grapple with opioid abuse. The meeting is 9 a.m. Feb. 21, in room 427 in the Blatt building. Click here to read the agenda.

Keel appointment. A Senate subcommittee will look at the reappointment of SLED chief Mark Keel 10 a.m. Feb. 22, in room 307 in the Gressette building.

Looking back: Legislature working on utilities, pensions, more

Amending utility oversight. The House voted to alter the makeup of the Public Service Commission in the wake of the V.C. Summer $9 billion nuclear boondoggle. The bill will require commissioners to further their education and to question utility requests thoroughly. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Senate wants more time. The Senate says state officials need more time to determine what led to a joint utility project that incurred $9 billion in expenses before being canceled last summer. Read more via The Post and Courier.

Pension needs more conversation. S.C. lawmakers are seeking extended conversation on future retirement plans for new state hires. Read more via The Rock Hill Herald.

Legislative appointee removed. A Charleston County Transportation Committee appointee has been removed from office after allegedly posting racist comments about President Barack Obama. Read more via AP/The Island Packet.

Drilling opposed. U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and more than 200 people gathered on the Statehouse steps this week to protest oil and natural gas exploration off the coast of South Carolina. Read more via South Carolina Radio Network.

Manufacturer's protected. Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that will protect manufacturers from lawsuits from neighbors so long as those companies are compliant with S.C. regulations. Read more via AP/The Island Packet.

House members seek state committee to study palliative care

Staff reports | State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, introduced a bill (H. 4935) Wednesday that seeks to create a state committee to study palliative care to improve the lives of patients and caregivers.

"Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses and is focused on providing patients with relief from the stress and other symptoms that come along with a diagnosis such as cancer. It is appropriate at any age and for any stage of a disease," said Beth Johnson, director of government relations in South Carolina for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "Most importantly, research indicates that palliative care systems increase health outcomes while reducing health care costs.

"Studies have shown coordinating patient care and treating pain and symptoms leads to increased patient and family satisfaction and decreases the time spent in intensive care units and the likelihood patients will be readmitted to hospitals."


Senators introduced 32 bills during the week, with these of particular interest:

Spoofed calls. S. 996 (Cromer) seeks to make it illegal for telemarketers to make spoofed calls, with several provisions.

Flag. S. 1002 (Cromer) seeks a resolution to create a state flag study committee to propose a uniform design for the flag.

Judicial appointment. S. 1009 (Climer) seeks to extend by a year a prohibition on members of the General Assembly being elected to a judgeship while in office, and to extend the ban to immediate family members.

Smalls. S. 1012 (Gregory) seeks to lift a Statehouse moratorium on new monuments and to erect a monument to honor Robert Smalls.


House members introduced 57 bills during the week. Of note:

Liquor sales. H. 4901 (Ott) seeks to change liquor laws to allow places to serve liquor without having to serve food or provide lodging, with several provisions.

Inclusionary zoning. H. 4954 (Cogswell) seeks to allow local governments to use inclusionary zoning strategies to boost the availability of affordable housing.

Guns. H. 4956 (Pitts) seeks to exempt prohibitions on concealed weapon permit holders from having guns on school property.

Sagging pants. H. 4957 (Jefferson) seeks to make it unlawful for people to wear pants "more than three inches below a person's ileum" with penalties.

On voting, sales tax, recidivism, tax credits and housing

By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | Our weekly Top Five feature offers big stories or views from the past week or so with policy and legislative implications that you need to read because of how they could impact South Carolina. If you have stories to suggest to our readers, send to:

1. South Carolina receives a D for election security, Center for American Progress, Feb. 12, 2018.

A foreign nation-state targeted America's elections in 2016, with 21 states being targeted by hackers, according to the Department of Homeland Security. South Carolina was not among those listed by the department, but the state's election system has gained notoriety for its weakness in being completely electronic. An excerpt:

"The state's use of machines that do not provide a paper record and its lack of robust post-election audits leaves South Carolina open to undetected hacking and other Election Day problems. To protect its elections from sophisticated nation-states, South Carolina should switch over to a paper ballot voting system and enact laws requiring robust post-election audits that test the accuracy of election outcomes."

2. South Carolina 16th in nation for high state, local sales taxes, The Tax Foundation, Feb. 13, 2018.

California has the highest state-level sales tax rate at 7.25 percent, and Colorado has the lowest sales tax rate at 2.9 percent. South Carolina has a statewide sales tax of 6 percent. If you average all of the state's local sales taxes, the rate goes up to 7.37 percent. An excerpt:

"Retail sales taxes are one of the more transparent ways to collect tax revenue. While graduated income tax rates and brackets are complex and confusing to many taxpayers, sales taxes are easier to understand; consumers can see their tax burden printed directly on their receipts."

3. Higher minimum wage prevents recidivism, The Union Daily Times, Feb. 12, 2018.

Crime doesn't pay if wages pay better, according to new research from Clemson and Rutgers universities. Researchers examined records from nearly 6 million criminal offenders released from prison between 2000 and 2014, and more than 200 state and federal minimum wage increases and earned income tax credit programs in 21 states. Clemson researcher Michael Makowsky told The Union Daily Times:

"People who were released where the minimum wage was raised had a lower recidivism rate. And in those states that chose to subsidize wages of adults with custody of dependents, women experienced an 11.4 percent drop in recidivism … These aren't trivial numbers when you're talking about whether or not a person returned to prison."

4. Earned-income tax credits gain ground in S.C., elsewhere, Center for Budget and Public Policy, Feb. 7, 2018.

In 2017, South Carolina was one of three states to create new earned-income tax credits. That same year, three other states expanded their credits. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have credits now. South Carolina is one of six states that offers non-refundable tax credit. According to the analysis, refundable EITCs are preferred because they "give working households the full value of the credit they earn even if it exceeds their income liability." An excerpt:

"The credits build on the federal EITC's proven record, helping people keep working, make ends meet, and improve their children's life chances. Like the federal credit, state EITCs also help build an economy that works for everyone, including many women and people of color not fully sharing in the gains of today's economy."

5. $35M in federal housing assistance cut in S.C. in proposed Trump budget, Center for Budget and Public Policy, Feb. ,2018.

Under President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget, South Carolina would see a loss of $2,368 per household for housing choice vouchers, $35 million for Public Housing funding, $12 million for HOME funding and $34 million for CDBG funding. An excerpt:

"Overall, the President requests $41.2 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs in 2019, $6.8 billion (or 14.2 percent) below the 2017 level, not counting losses due to inflation, and even further below what policymakers will likely approve for 2018."

BRACK: Election systems safe, but hearts and minds may not be

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | The Russians will only be successful in meddling with the 2018 elections if we let them do it to us.

The nation's spy chiefs this week said they expected foreign governments to try to fiddle with election outcomes in 2018, just like the Russians did in 2016. But that doesn't mean foreign governments will necessarily try to hack into voting systems, change names on voting rolls or disrupt the internal mechanics of voting.

"What they are trying to do is inject themselves [into our election process] and cause confusion in another way - using social media and other means," said state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. "They are creating fake news."

And we can't fall for it. The Russians and others, tickled pink with their success in the 2016 elections, will keep at it this year. They'll deploy disinformation, propaganda and, yes, fake news strategies against Americans to get inside their hearts and minds to influence them before they even walk into the polls. It's sad, but these non-Americans want to use one of the greatest powers of our democracy - the free flow of information -to manipulate our behavior inside the polling booth.

We can't let that happen. The cure is for Americans to be more discerning about the news they consume - and stop relying so much on Twitter, Facebook, other social media and the Internet. Voters need to rely on news gathered by trained reporters who know what they're doing.

In South Carolina, our election system is safe, secure and impartial, says Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission.

"The State Election Commission is taking all reasonable measures to protect our systems; however, we have no way to prevent the use of propaganda on social media," she said. "We encourage voters to visit and to rely on credible sources to verify the accuracy of stories found on social media."

In recent months, the commission has taken several steps to boost security to the state's election hardware, Andino said. It is in the process of getting secret-level security clearances. It is communicating frequently with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to get classified information if it is necessary. The state joined the department's cyber-hygiene program before the 2016 election and its public, Internet-connected systems are scanned weekly.

"The scans have been an important tool the agency uses to strengthen our security posture," she said. "In addition to the Homeland Security scans, we rely on scans and assessments by other security partners to identify vulnerabilities and perform necessary remediation."

But all of the cyber-vigilance in the world still doesn't let elections officials rest easy.

"I'm worried that in spite of all of the extraordinary efforts by election officials across the country, the fear of foreign interference will discourage voter participation and undermine voter confidence in elections."

And that would be a tragedy. We need more participation in elections, not less, Hutto said.

"We've got to do a better job of letting people know every vote matters, every vote counts," he said. "People need to use their own common sense about where they're getting their information from.

"People also need to be vigilant when they hear things. Don't necessarily take it at face value until you've tracked down the source."

A weakness in South Carolina's voting system is that its machines are all-electronic and without paper back-ups for recounts. The current statewide system of voting booths dates to 2004 when it cost $34.6 million. A new voting system will cost $50 million to $100 million, Andino said.

With outside threats on the rise, now is the time to invest in a new system to boost accountability and transparency - and to reassure voters that we have the best voting system around that can't be manipulated by outsiders.

"My hope is the legislature will fund the request for updating the machines and replacing our state voting machines," said S.C. Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Lancaster Democrat. "It's that important. Our elections are that important."

ACLU of South Carolina

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.

The ACLU of South Carolina is dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through communications, lobbying and litigation, the ACLU of South Carolina works to preserve and enhance the rights of all citizens of South Carolina. Foremost among these rights are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under law, and
the right to privacy.

CRUISE: Celebrate state's 2-1-1 system every day of February
Posted, Feb. 14, 2018

By Kelly Callahan Cruise, special to Statehouse Report | Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we are stopped in our tracks. Perhaps you need to find home healthcare for an elderly relative, or maybe you need assistance in paying a utility bill. You may be looking for help for a friend who is suffering from an addiction problem. Did you know there is a resource to help you find answers?

Whether you're searching for information, or trying to locate a resource for someone in the community, dialing 2-1-1 can find you the help you need!


Every day, thousands of people call, text, and web chat with highly trained specialists at SC 2-1-1 to find food, housing, health care, financial coaching, job training and more. This vital service is part of United Way's effort to fight for the health, education and financial stability for every person in our state. Having this resource available is a huge asset to our state, and that is why we celebrate February 11 (2-11) as 2-1-1 Day!

SC 2-1-1 offers assistance in an array of areas. Are you concerned about your child's developmental growth? There is so much information available about the early stages of child development that it can be hard to understand. SC 2-1-1 specialists can connect you to someone who can help, and in many communities, to agencies that actually offer developmental screenings by phone.

Perhaps you have considered a career change, or are in need of employment. Whether you're looking to re-enter the workforce, upgrade your job or find a new career, SC 2-1-1 can direct you to resume review services, possible employment opportunities, and training programs near you.

Medical situations arise, and sometimes we all have questions or concerns as to where we can find help. Sometimes those situations bring bills that can be overwhelming. If you are looking for assistance with medical needs or the financial burdens associated with them, SC 2-1-1 can direct you to assistance with those needs.

Sometimes we are just in need of support in dealing with life's stresses. If you, a friend, or a loved one is looking for a therapist, addiction treatment resource, or support group, don't spend hours searching online or simply avoiding finding the help you need.
SC 2-1-1 maintains a robust list of resources in your community, including those that may offer free services or fees on a sliding scale.

If you are looking for help with filing your taxes, SC 2-1-1 can help connect you with easy ways to file in person or online. In most cases, you can file for free, depending on your income. SC 2-1-1 partners with government agencies and non-profit organizations to help you get connected to needed services. During tax season, call SC 2-1-1 to find a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in your community to get your taxes prepared free.

In 2017, SC2-1-1 handled 1.7 million calls for healthcare, food, and community resources, including 11,706 VITA appointments. When you consider that taxpayers spend an average of $200 in tax filing fees, this is a cost savings of over $2.3 million for low-income individuals. Combined with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, these savings allow working families to put more money toward unexpected household expenses, childcare, advanced education or a savings account. This helps create greater financial stability and security for families.

In addition to being able to call the three-digit 2-1-1 telephone number 24 hours a day, seven days a week, individuals can search for support online at or use the SC 2-1-1 mobile app available for Android and Apple Devices. You can also use the online chat feature on the website during regular business hours. It is easy to access and free to use.

Call SC2-1-1 today to get your questions answered, or visit

Kelly Callahan Cruise is president and CEO of the United Way Association of South Carolina, which operates 2-1-1.

No more talk on guns. We need action now.

To the editor:

The total number of children and teens killed or injured by gun violence nationwide since January 1 is at least 402. In South Carolina, during the same period, 47 people have died and 102 have suffered injuries from gun violence. (More: Gun Violence Archive.)

I call on the S.C. Legislature to make South Carolina safer from gun violence. Evidence shows that laws strengthening background checks and permit-to-purchase are associated with decreased firearm homicide rates. (See this study).

The Senate Judiciary Committee should vote NO on bill S. 449, which would gut the concealed carry permit system in our state and allow anyone to open carry without a background check or safety training. In Arizona and Missouri, gun violence has increased dramatically after implementing similar permit-less carry laws. (More: See this 2010 Arizona report and this St. Louis report.)

Further, we need action on S. 516, which was referred to subcommittee 10 months ago and would strengthen our 2015 domestic violence law. Mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence in most cases, and we need our domestic violence law to work better in terms of reporting and implementation.

No more prayers, no more talk. We need action.

-- Kristin French, North Charleston, S.C.

MYSTERY: Mystery house

We bet this South Carolina home looks pretty familiar to some of you, but where is it - and what's its importance? Send your best guess - plus your name and hometown - to In the subject line, write: "Mystery Photo guess."

Last week's mystery

Last week's Mystery Photo showed the main building at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Congratulations to those who correctly identified it: Jay Altman of Columbia; Wofford grad Dan Jepson of the Upstate; and George Graf of Palmyra, Va.

Graf provided more information, according to "Established in 1854, Wofford College is situated in the college town of Spartanburg, SC, on a campus designated as a National Historic District in 1974. Wofford is a private liberal arts college, offering 26 undergraduate majors and 22 minors; the most popular courses of study include biology, business economics, finance, and government. Greek life is central to Wofford's social life: there are 12 chapters on campus, claiming 35 percent of the male student body and 43 percent of the female student body. The entire 175-acre campus, which contains over 5,000 trees, was designated as the Roger Milliken Arboretum in 2002. Wofford has been recognized for having one of the best tailgating traditions in the country, and students can join 110 clubs and organizations. Wofford has been home to a Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society chapter since 1940, and the Wofford Terriers compete in the NCAA Division I."

Send us a mystery: If you have a photo that you believe will stump readers, send it along (but make sure to tell us what it is because it may stump us too!) Send to: and mark it as a photo submission. Thanks.

Women's suffrage in South Carolina

S.C. Encyclopedia | The enfranchisement of women in South Carolina was first discussed publicly during the Reconstruction period. A women's rights convention held in Columbia in December 1870 received a warm letter of support from Governor R. K. Scott. In 1872 the General Assembly endorsed a petition of the American Woman Suffrage Association to grant women political rights, but it adjourned without taking any specific action. The earliest suffrage clubs in the state were not organized until the 1890s, but suffragists were beginning to receive notice. Writing for the Charleston News and Courier in 1882, the journalist N. G. Gonzales described the typical suffragist as "thirty to sixty, a majority of considerable embonpoint, a majority passable looking, a majority with gray hair and a majority wearing bright colors."

Virginia Durant Young of Fairfax almost single-handedly transformed the South Carolina woman suffrage climate in the 1890s. Wife of a country town doctor who supported her endeavors, Young came to the suffrage cause via church work and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She championed both prohibition and votes for women in her weekly, the Fairfax Enterprise. Together with a "little knot of (temperance) women," in April 1890 in Greenville, Young formed the South Carolina Equal Rights Association (SCERA), which soon claimed memberships from places as small as Frogmore (Beaufort County) and Chitty (Barnwell County) to cities such as Charleston and Columbia. Young soon aligned the SCERA with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which constituted a committee for the southern states in 1892 and named Young a vice president for South Carolina.

Young found a crucial suffrage ally in Robert R. Hemphill, editor of the Abbeville Medium and a longtime member of the South Carolina Senate. In December 1892 she persuaded Hemphill to introduce a joint resolution to allow women to vote and hold office, although this was unsuccessful. The next year Young got Hemphill to introduce a petition claiming that the state was violating her civil rights as a tax-paying citizen by denying her the ballot, but no debate resulted.

Suffragists became increasingly active in 1895. Several, including Young and Senator Hemphill, attended the NAWSA convention in Atlanta in 1895 and hosted Susan B. Anthony on her return north. They vigorously lobbied legislators at the 1895 constitutional convention, hoping to get educated, property-owning women enfranchised. In so doing, they argued giving white women the vote could achieve the goal of restricting black political power. Young, the prominent suffragist Laura Clay, and several other enthusiasts visited twenty-three towns in the spring of 1895 hoping to gain converts and start new suffrage clubs. Numerous factors, however, including the influence of conservative religious groups and ties of the suffrage movement to abolitionism and the controversial Grimké sisters, coupled with the widely held view that the women's rights movement was "against Scripture, against nature, and against commonsense," insured legislative failure. Following rejection of an amendment to extend the franchise to women possessing three hundred dollars' worth of taxable property, the South Carolina woman suffrage movement entered a near twenty-year period of dormancy. The SCERA disintegrated with Young's death in 1906.

The September 1912 formation in Spartanburg of the New Era Club, which was committed to advancing "the industrial, legal and educational rights of women and children," signaled a revival of the cause in the state. The pace quickened in spring 1914 when visits to Columbia and Charleston by Lila Meade Valentine, founder of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, resulted in leagues in those cities and, in May 1914, formation of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League (SCESL). There were twenty-five leagues and a membership of three thousand by the time of the convention of 1917. Aligned with NAWSA, the SCESL carefully distanced itself from the English-style militancy of the National Woman's Party (NWP), supporters of a federal suffrage amendment.

Recognizing the uphill battle before it, the SCESL initially kept its legislative work on a small scale and focused on organization and education. The league distributed literature at state and county fairs, clubs, and schools. Outside speakers, including NAWSA leader Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, were brought to the state. The first suffrage parade was held during the 1914 State Fair. An overall plan to organize counties, towns, and wards was drafted.

Foremost leaders in the final suffrage drive were Susan Pringle Frost of Charleston and Eulalie Chaffee Salley of Aiken, both professional realtors and arguably the state's most controversial feminists. An eighth-generation Charlestonian and grande dame of that city's historic preservation movement, Frost headed the Charleston Equal Suffrage League (CESL) until December 1917, when she narrowly failed to align it with Alice Paul's NWP and resigned to form a Woman's Party branch, one of three in the state. Frost and her small group of Paul partisans, including Anita Pollitzer, later head of the national organization, continued to promote woman suffrage during the war years, and Frost joined one of the demonstrations against President Wilson in Washington. Eulalie Salley was organizer and president of the Aiken Equal Suffrage League and, in 1919, SCESL president. An aggressive and innovative suffrage campaigner, Salley once boxed in a prizefight to raise money and scattered suffrage pamphlets over Aiken while hanging out of an airplane.

With the death of Ben Tillman in 1918, South Carolina suffragists concentrated lobby efforts on his interim replacement in the U.S. Senate, William Pollock of Cheraw. With the Senate only two votes shy of passing the Anthony amendment in October 1918, an intense and successful "Helping Pollock to Declare" campaign was waged. However, his was the only additional vote in favor of the amendment. Although his replacement voted against the Nineteenth Amendment, it was passed in 1919.

The journalist William Watts Ball observed in January 1920 that "legions of suffragists . . . painfully excited" had descended on the state capitol in Columbia as ratification was debated in the General Assembly. Despite the heroic support of Beaufort legislator Neils Christensen, however, the cause was hopeless. The S.C. House rejected the amendment 93 to 21, the S.C. Senate 32 to 3. Following national ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the South Carolina General Assembly reluctantly passed a law giving women the right to vote but simultaneously passed another statute excluding women from jury duty. Patriarchal and recalcitrant to the end, the state finally ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1969. Standing behind the governor on the occasion, eighty-six-year-old Eulalie Salley reputedly had the last word, remarking, "Boys, I've been waiting fifty years to tell you what I think of you."

- Excerpted from an entry by Sidney R. Bland. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


ISSUE 17.07 | Feb. 16, 2018

NEWS: Top lawmakers question higher-ed agency's town halls, dire claims

NEWS BRIEFS: It's a tight budget year; Conservation Bank moves forward

CALENDAR: House moving forward on budget, more

TALLY SHEET: House members seek state committee to study palliative care

TOP FIVE: On voting, sales tax, recidivism, tax credits and housing

BRACK: Election systems safe, but your hearts and minds may not be

SPOTLIGHT: ACLU of South Carolina

MY TURN, Cruise: Celebrate state's 2-1-1 system every day of February

FEEDBACK: No more talk on guns. We need action now.

MYSTERY PHOTO: Mystery home

SC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Women's suffrage

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