COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A piece of political mail is circulating throughout lower Richland County and sparking controversy.
It promotes three nonpartisan Richland One School Board candidates and appears to be sent by the South Carolina Democratic Party. The postal flyer is signed with the South Carolina Democratic Party’s return address and paid for with their postal permit number.
The SCDP says they learned of the mailer Wednesday afternoon and aren’t responsible for it. “We’ve been very clear. We have not endorsed a nonpartisan candidate, and we are not spending money on nonpartisan candidates,” explained SCDP Executive Director Jay Parmley. “I don’t care if it went to 100 people or 10,000. This is bad.”
The flyers promote several Democratic candidates, but also include Richland One School Board District 4 candidate Cheryl Hinton Harris, and at-large candidates, Angela Clyburn and Raquel Thomas.
“I wasn’t aware,” said Thomas. “I had no idea, and I couldn’t give my permission because I wasn’t aware that the mailer was actually going out.”
The flyers also do not include a “paid for” line, and because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are also listed, the Democratic Party says this could trigger Federal Election Commission rules. “Let’s be clear, this is a federal crime,” said Parmley. “The Post Office takes this postal permit very seriously. Parties have been fined. Parties have lost the ability to use their postal permit for violations in the past.”
But school board candidates who weren’t included on the pieces of mail are worried this could impact their race.
“To me, it’s just another form of voter suppression, so of course I am very concerned,” said Shannon Williams, who’s running for a seat in District 4. “I don’t know how the three candidates were chosen, especially without their consent or knowledge.”
Jonathan Milling, who’s running for one of the at-large seats is also concerned these flyers could positively impact the candidates listed.
“I think there’s certainly the potential that voters were misled as the result of this,” he explained.
But many are wondering how this happened. Parmley says he believes a vendor who has done work with their party and candidates over the years could be responsible.
“That’s the guess on my part, but that is the only way it would work as far, as I know of,” said Parmley.
He also explained this is the first time he’s ever been aware of something like this happening to the South Carolina Democratic Party.
The case has been turned over to the U.S. Postal Service, and whoever did this could face criminal charges.