Ousted candidates start petition drives for November ballot

The next phase in the election cycle has begun, for the nearly 200 candidates who were left off the South Carolina primary ballot by a state Supreme Court ruling two weeks ago.

Now that a three-judge panel has thrown out a federal lawsuit challenging next month's primary, and the state Senate failed to pass a legislative fix to the ballot problem last week, it appears the June 12 primary will take place on schedule.

For those ousted candidates who still want to run, the next step is a petition drive. To be placed on the ballot, state law requires independent candidates to get signatures from five percent of registered voters in a district, with those petitions due by mid-July.

Mike Connett of Loris spent Tuesday afternoon gathering signatures to get his name placed on the November ballot as an independent candidate in SC House District 105.

In his first half-hour of going door to door, Connett got three names on his list. He'll need at least 957 more.

Connett is among the more than 180 people statewide whose names were removed from the lists of certified candidates, because the state Supreme Court ruled that they didn't properly file statements of economic interest when they filed to run.

But Connett said it seems like some other candidates who also didn't file the statements correctly still managed to stay on the ballot. He said state election officials just took the word of party leaders that the lists of certified candidates were correct.

"The state election office is not following up," Connett said. "They're taking the forms that were submitted by both parties and they are just rubber-stamping them."

Bert von Herrmann, another ousted candidate from House District 105, said he doesn't think any candidate in that district got the paperwork right, but his opponent, Blake Hewitt, was certified anyway.

So von Herrmann filed a lawsuit Monday to have Hewitt's name removed.

"We made a mistake, we didn't file our paperwork, just like all the other candidates did. This lawsuit is about making everybody on an equal playing field and allowing them all to run as petition candidates," von Herrmann said, who also plans to get his name on the November ballot as an independent.

Hewitt declined to comment about the lawsuit.

State GOP party leaders will hold a meeting in Columbia Wednesday, to review the names that were left on - and taken off - the primary ballot.