S.C. Democratic Party Drops Primary Oath

The South Carolina Democratic Party (search) dropped a controversial voter oath requirement one day before the state's first-in-the-South presidential primary, citing voter complaints and confusion.

"There's confusion, and confusion's not a good thing," party Chairman Joe Erwin (search) said Monday.

Voters going to the polls Tuesday were supposed to sign an oath that read: "I consider myself to be a Democrat" — which could have kept some independents and even Republicans from participating.

Erwin had told a local television station the oath would keep Republicans from making "mischief" in the primary. South Carolina doesn't require voters to register with party affiliation, so crossover voting is allowed.

But hours later, Erwin announced the pledge had been dropped so as not to deter any voters "disgruntled" with the Bush administration from casting a ballot for a Democratic candidate.

"We have made the decision, we are dropping the oath," Erwin said.

He said the party's voter action hotline had been "ringing off the hook" with complaints. "We have been hearing from people all over the state," the chairman said.

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Erwin said the oath was dropped after discussions with party lawyers in Washington and members of the Democratic National Committee (search).

He defended the oath, saying it has been part of the Democratic process in South Carolina since 1976. But it hadn't been used recently because the state party has nominated presidential candidates through caucuses during the past few election cycles.

State GOP Chairman Katon Dawson lauded the Democrats' reversal, calling the oath "a painful reminder of the hateful politics of the past. ... The last thing anyone would want was for our state to take a step backwards."