More than half a million South Carolinians vote early in the midterm elections
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly one in five eligible voters in South Carolina has already cast his or her ballot for this year’s midterms, according to data from the South Carolina Election Commission.
South Carolina currently has about 3.4 million eligible voters.
560,622 people voted during the state’s 12-day early voting period, the first for a general election under a new state law passed earlier this year.
More than 50,000 people have already turned in absentee ballots as well.
“We think early voting’s been a huge success,” South Carolina Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire said.
If turnout tracks with the 2018 midterms, this would mean that nearly one-third of all votes would be in before Election Day.
Robert Oldendick, a University of South Carolina political science professor, said turnout would likely be similar to that election.
Whitmire said with this many people casting ballots ahead of Election Day, there likely will be shorter lines on Tuesday.
It could also make for a smoother day for poll workers.
The number of voters trended upward throughout the 12-day period, peaking this past Friday when 68,817 people cast ballots.
Richland County turnout mirrored statewide numbers, with the highest turnout on Friday, November 4 when 5,913 people voted.
Turnout for early voting was highest in Charleston County, with 67,364 people casting ballots, followed by Horry (51,116), Greenville (49,987), Richland (46,498), and Lexington counties (29,315).
Beyond convenience, Oldendick said shifting political dynamics could be another reason why turnout was high.
“A lot of people used to wait until close to Election Day to make up their minds who to vote, we had much closer races, the country wasn’t as polarized,” he used. “Now people make up their minds very early, as early as Labor Day or even before they know who the candidates are as to who they’re going to vote for so it’s not that last-minute decision-making.”
The State Election Commission is not suggesting any legislative changes to South Carolina’s early voting law, Whitmire said.
The commission will be working with county boards of voter registration and elections to help them add early voting locations and capacity.
“It’s a situation where if you build it, they will come,” Whitmire said. “So the more early voting locations you open up, it makes it more convenient for voters and more likely that they’ll take advantage of it.”
Whitmire says voters should have confidence in the election process. Two audits are performed before results are certified, he said.
The first is a hand-count audit at select precincts in each county.
“After the election, we open the ballot box, hand-count them, look at what the voter looked at, and make sure that it matches what the voting system read, it’s hard to argue that that’s not accurate,” Whitmire said. “Now we don’t recount the whole 2 million ballots that were cast, but it’s a significant sampling of a number of precincts throughout the state.”
County boards of voter registration and elections certify the results on Friday, with state election commission certification on Thursday, November 17.
The State Election Commission does not anticipate any delays in reporting results. The majority of results should be in by 10 P.M., Whitmire said.
“There are thousands of x-factors on Election Day, things that could go wrong,” he said. “While the normal process and what we expect is we should have a significant number of the precincts in, nearly all the precincts in maybe by 10 o’clock or so, there will always be some stragglers.”
Polls are open on Election Day from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.
A valid ID is needed to vote.
State election officials suggest reviewing a sample ballot on its website before heading to the polls Tuesday. There you can also find polling place locations.
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