COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - When the polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m. in South Carolina, will we know the winner? The answer depends on who you ask.
As of Sunday morning, more than 1.25 million South Carolinians have already voted, which is more than half of the total votes cast in the 2016 election. According to S.C. Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire, because of the surge in absentee voting, there will be a lot of data to report when polls close.
“Within seven and eight [o’clock] a lot of results will get reported. All those in-person absentee results of those record-setting numbers will be reported fairly quickly,” Whitmire said. “Probably around three quarters will at least be done on Election Night. And a lot of counties will finish their by-mail ballots on Election Night, so I think it will just depend on media organizations calling winners, it will just depend on how close elections are and if they feel they can do it,” he explained.
Whitmire points out that while media organizations may call elections just hours after polls close, the election results aren’t official until the commission meets.
Whitmire says counties will not officially declare a winner until leaders meet the Friday after Election Day, and statewide and federal election results won’t be official until the commission meets the Tuesday after Election Day.
To call results once there is a clear winner using data from raw vote totals, exit polls, and other key information, WIS, and other news organizations partner with the Associated Press.
South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick believes most statewide and local winners will be called on Election Night unless a race is close.
“My hope is we will know sometime before too late in the morning [on Wednesday], and I expect that will be the case here in South Carolina because we haven’t really upset the balance of our normal system other than the higher number of absentee ballots to process,” McKissick explained.
He added that on Sunday poll workers can start to open the outer envelopes, which he said will help speed up the counting process.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) once predicted the results of the Presidential Election will be announced on November 3 or November 4, but now he says he is less certain.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen Tuesday night, I thought I knew the state or the country well enough not to see this kind of threats to democracy,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn believes recent Supreme Court rulings concerning elections like one recently banning curbside voting in Alabama are dangerous and cause a lot of uncertainty.
The South Carolina Republican Party disagrees and says they support Supreme Court rulings that protect election security.
However, despite their differences, both sides are encouraging their supporters to vote and vote early if possible
“Get out and get in line [Monday]. Cast those early votes because every person who votes early, in this case, is one less person who is standing in line on Election Day,” McKissick said.
Clyburn laughed and admitted he is a procrastinator at times himself but said people should act as soon as possible.
“This time we need to practice social distancing as best as possible can, and I think that is possible if we can get people to vote early,” he said.