What role will abortion play in mobilizing SC voters this election?

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Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 7:11 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Through the first three days of South Carolina’s early voting period, voters have been heading to the polls in record numbers.

More than 42,000 people have cast their ballots every day since Monday, in just the second time the state has offered no-excuse, in-person voting under a new law.

This is also South Carolina’s first election since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June in its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

As opposed to other states, like Kansas earlier this year, abortion isn’t literally on the ballot for South Carolina voters.

But with every seat in the state’s House of Representatives up to voters, along with South Carolina’s governor, the people they select to represent them at the State House are some of the ones who will determine whether access to abortion will change.

Planned Parenthood in South Carolina said getting more people registered to vote, especially young women, has been a key focus of theirs since the summer.

“We’ve been on college campuses throughout the summer, trying to let students know about registration. We have really supported the work of the League of Women Voters and included them at all of our rallies to make sure that people are registered,” Vicki Ringer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said. “It’s one thing to show up for a rally and to protest and to carry great signs, but the real work is at the election booth, and so we’ve got to get people registered to vote and let their voices be heard.”

Will that materialize into voters showing up at the polls?

That remains to be seen, but voter registration data from the South Carolina Election Commission shows the number of people eligible to vote has increased since Roe was repealed in June.

From May 31, about a month before that Supreme Court decision, to earlier this week, 61,494 people registered to vote.

Most of them were female voters — 34,596 compared to 26,812 new male voters who registered.

But that matches previous trends in South Carolina, as the proportion of female voters to male voters stayed the same, with about 55% of registered voters in South Carolina women and 45% men in both late May and this week.

In fact, those are the same percentage breakdowns among registered voters in South Carolina general elections for about the last four decades: 55% women and 45% men.

Of course, groups hoping to end abortion in South Carolina have been working to mobilize their supporters as well.

Dave Wilson, the president and CEO of the conservative Palmetto Family Council, said for the last year, his organization has held more than 100 meetings with grassroots groups on the importance of getting to the polls for issues like abortion.

“Meeting in community groups, meeting in churches, talking with folks about the issues, why they matter, what their Bible’s worldview on that says, and really what people can do about that, and when it comes to the election, that is showing up to vote,” Wilson said.

For about the last two decades, voter turnout for midterm elections in South Carolina has hovered around 50%, much lower than years when the presidency is on the ballot.

So it remains to be seen if the issue of abortion is indeed one that will drive more voters to the polls this election.

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