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SC governor vetoes partisan school elections in one county

FILE - Henry McMaster
Meg Kinnard/AP
FILE - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks during the rollout of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp.'s new company, Nephron Nitrile, which CEO Lou Kennedy says will manufacture medical gloves as part of an effort to shore up the U.S. medical supply chain, Thursday, July 15, 2021, in West Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has vetoed a proposal that would have allowed candidates for school board in Lancaster County to run as members of political parties.

In his veto message last Monday, McMaster said he wasn't necessarily against partisan school board elections, just the Legislature's decision to only apply it to one county. The governor frequently vetoes what are called local bills.

Instead, McMaster suggested the General Assembly pass a proposal to change the rules for every school district in the state.

"As our recent experience has made abundantly clear, school board elections are critically important," McMaster wrote in his veto message. "Thus, the manner in which these elections are conducted warrants scrutiny and debate, and the proposal to transition to partisan elections may have merit."

Only two other districts in the state — Horry and Lee counties — have partisan races, although officials in those districts have been unable to find documentation allowing the races to be run that way.

Supporters of the bill have said the people of Lancaster County want transparency in school board elections in a county that is both growing rapidly in population and in a conservative direction, citing issues like COVID-19 and curriculum.

Opponents, like the South Carolina School Boards Association, said it would increase polarization and inject politics into school boards at an important time when they are considering how to teach about race and how to respond to COVID-19.

The House initially rejected the proposal on a 47-49 vote with House Democrats and Republicans coming together. But they couldn't completely kill the idea and the proposal later passed on a 57-39 vote.

The Senate agreed to the proposal without a recorded vote.

The governor's veto sends the proposal back to both chambers, which must get a two-thirds vote to override McMaster's decision.