CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Voters hoping to attend the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston this month will be hard-pressed to find guaranteed tickets unless they pay thousands of dollars as a sponsor.
The last presidential debate before the South Carolina Democratic primary will be on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Gaillard Center.
Voters Emily Kiley and Peter Davis have been volunteering and supporting Bernie Sanders's campaign for months.
"We watch every debate that goes on so now that one’s coming to Charleston that’s insanely exciting," Kiley said. "Of course the first thing we do is look for tickets."
The couple has signed up to be a part of more than 800 volunteers to help set up or work the debate.
“But there’s no access to tickets on any Democratic site that we could see,” Kiley said.
That's because tickets aren't readily available. The Charleston County Democratic Party website says "The only guaranteed way to get a ticket is to become a sponsor of the debate."
Sponsorship ranges from $1,750 to $3,200 each for attendance to multiple “First in the South” events.
Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Colleen Condon said neither the state nor local party knows how many tickets will be available to the general public. She said tickets are first handed out to organizers. Then, campaigns may get some tickets to disperse among supporters.
"This is something that the average person doesn’t usually get to go to," Condon said. "The Gaillard is only so big and this is something that is just a hot ticket from across the country. These kind of events really are set up for sponsors and things like that."
Condon also added that the ticket system is not unique to the Charleston debate.
“It’s completely usual,” Condon said. "This is exactly what’s happening in New Hampshire for their debate, Nevada’s debate and Iowa’s debate and so on.
Active campaign supporters like Davis said something like a democratic debate should be much more accessible to everyday voters.
"At the end of the day, it’s still a money game," Davis said. "Whoever has the most gets to attend these kinds of events that should be public and should be easily accessible."
Charleston voter Eileen Walsh said she was shocked to find out about the price of guaranteed admission.
"I think that’s impossible for us people that obviously don’t have the money to do something like that," Walsh said. "The people should be able to go to."
Voters can buy tickets online to the official watch party and other events leading up to the main event.
The debate is organized by the Democratic National Committee, the Black Caucus Institute, CBS and Twitter.