South Carolina is the kind of place where change only comes after a massive shock to the system. The state where the Civil War began takes threats to tradition seriously. During the early 19th Century, political disputes were settled at dawn with pistols. One governor, John Lyde Wilson, even wrote the definitive 1838 treatise on the subject: The Code of Honor, Or Rules for the Government of Principals and Seconds in Dueling.
Later means of battle included canes — like the one that pro-slavery U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks used to bash the skull of the abolitionist Charles Sumner in 1856 — and wrestling — like the moves that U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond put on Ralph Yarborough in 1964 in an attempt to prevent the pro-civil rights Texas senator from voting at a confirmation hearing.
South Carolina politics may be less violent today, but state legislators still cling tenaciously to doing things the old way – even when other states have moved on. South Carolina is one of only two states where judges are elected by the legislature and one of only a handful that don’t require public officials to disclose private income. As a host of reform advocates have said, South Carolina is still very much a “Wild West.”
So it’s no surprise that South Carolina earned a D- in the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, ranking the state 36th out of 50. That’s a marginal improvement from 2012, the first time the project was carried out, when the Palmetto State scored an F. The two scores are not directly comparable, however, due to changes made to improve and update the project and methodology, such as eliminating the category for redistricting, a process that generally occurs only once every 10 years.