Catch a bus, register to vote: Group helps to get SC voters registered

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you're planning to vote next month and you haven't registered you're running out of time because the deadline to register is Saturday.

One effort to get more people signed up has been underway at a Columbia bus station.

While waiting to catch a bus, Antoinette Potter is getting registered to vote with help from the South Carolina Progressive Network's Brett Bursey.

The organization has been working at CMRTA's Sumter Street bus station trying to find unregistered riders and making them aware of the November vote that could raise the Richland County sales tax to fund transportation projects including the bus system.

"We believe that public transportation needs to be publicly supported," said Bursey. "We're not pleased with the way it's going to the ballot, but to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we go to the ballot box with the initiative that we have, not the one we want."

While Bursey's group is clearly for the penny sales tax increase. The group has been trying since 2004 to boost the state's none-too-impressive track record on voter registration and turnout.

New figures just out from the State Election Commission show that while there are about 3.4 million people of voting age in the Palmetto State, just over 2.8 million are properly registered.

That leaves more than a half million who haven't even done the paperwork.

Bursey says it's not that people in a place like the bus station don't care, but even in a presidential cycle, they think their votes don't matter.

"I think most people are aware of the fact that there's an election coming up and that there's a deadline for registration," said Bursey. "I think the problem is deeper than that in them feeling that their vote won't make any difference."

On Monday, Bursey's group managed to sign up more than 40 bus riders.

Many like Potter, focused on the transportation tax.

"You know if the buses stop running, people need jobs," said Potter. "The buses benefit all of us, to get us where we need to go."

Voter registration is one thing. Voter participation is another. Two years ago when the state was choosing a governor, more than 1.2 million South Carolinians were registered to vote, but they did not.

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