A statewide movement was launched Monday to get more than 180 candidates who were thrown off the ballot for the June primary on November ballots as petition candidates.
Known as 'Operation Lost Vote' groups from around the state including the Palmetto Liberty PAC, RINO (Republican In Name Only) Hunt and the Columbia Tea Party are joining forces to inform voters "that their right to a free and fair election was stripped from them by a corrupt legislature." Other events were held or scheduled Monday in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg.
"We got a real problem with corruption in South Carolina," said Talbert Black of the Palmetto Liberty PAC. "I think what we're witnessing is the result of absolute power being held by the General Assembly."
To do this, groups will work to get voters to sign petitions for candidates, regardless of political party, that were told they couldn't appear on the June primary ballots, Black said.
To get on the November ballot, each will have to get signatures of 5 percent of the voters within the district they are hoping to represent. This can range from hundreds to thousands of signatures in a large county or district.
"We're not afraid of competition so we'll work to get any candidate back on the ballot that filed their State of Economic Interest (SEI) before April 15," Black said."However, we're going to work to bust our butts to get candidates elected who will fight against the corrupt(ion) that we have here in Columbia."
On May 2, the if they didn't file a SEI along with the Statement of Intention of Candidacy by the deadline.
"Many candidates who thought they were filing properly and following the instructions they we're given were ruled ineligible by the Supreme Court," Black said. "Our legislature creates the laws, then appoints the judges that rule on the laws they created.'
"The problem is this law offers no equal protection in the first place and it's contradictory."
Black said the groups will first work to get those candidates willing to run as petition candidates, but said they can't lose sight of the laws that created the problem.
"The statutes have to be changed so that the incumbents and the challengers don't have separate rules," he said.
Black also said that he is signing petitions for any candidate but his signature doesn't mean he will work to get them elected in the general election.
The candidates the group has endorsed, so far, includes:
- Sen. Kevin Bryant, Senate District 3
- Jim Lee, Senate District 8
- Sen. Lee Bright, Senate District 12
- Katrina Shealy, Senate District 23
- Dr. Mike Vasovski, Senate District 24
- Deedee Vaughters, Senate District 26
- Eddie McCain, House District 39
- Ryan Payne, House District 44
- Peter vonLehe Ruegner, House District 110
Deedee Vaughters, one of the few challengers to make it on the ballot, said she thinks that not only have the candidates been disenfranchised but also the voters.
"I will fight for any candidate to be on the ballot because I think it's essential for you, the voters of South Carolina, to not be disenfranchised," Vaughters said. "I'm commited to this. Frankly, right is right and this (what happend the past two weeks) is incredibly wrong and does speak very highly of corruption."
Black called out four members of the state legislature whom he said controlled the legislature and are corrupt.
Those members are Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell; Rep. Brian White, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee; President Pro Tem John Courson; and Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
"When four men effectively run the state, it's no wonder South Carolina was named one of the most corrupt states in the nation," Black said. "These men are not corrupt because they're breaking laws. They're corrupt because they write the laws and control the courts that rule on them."
"We got to return power to the people of this state."
Also being blamed for not stopping the controversy has been Lexington Sen. Jake Knotts, He was going to be challenged in the Republican primary by Shealy, but she was removed from the GOP ballot.