The number of new voter registrations has more than doubled in South Carolina compared to the last midterm elections in 2014.
As of November 2, the South Carolina Election Commission said it had received 91,000 voter registrations in the four months leading up to the October registration deadline. In 2014, 43,000 people registered to vote in South Carolina. During a presidential election two years later, 123,000 people registered to vote.
“Less than what you would expect for presidential, but more than double what it was in 2014,” Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
Because of Hurricane Florence, the Election Commission extended the voter registration deadline by ten days from October 7 to October 17. Whitmire said this is the first time in modern state history in which the deadline was extended. He said 30,000 residents registered to vote during those ten days.
He suspects the extensive media coverage around the deadline extension may have contributed to the increase. He believes an intense political climate and expanded social media coverage this year may have encouraged more people to register.
“There’s so many outlets out there for people to register to vote,” he said. “Social media is reminding voters to register and making it really easy for them by providing their users with links directly to our online voter registration system.”
Prior to the voter registration deadline, Whitmire said Facebook posted on every user’s wall in South Carolina a link to register to vote.
“That wasn’t going on in 2014,” he said. “There are other apps — Twitter and Uber and Lyft — all of these apps, many of them had voter registration efforts and that was a little different this year so I think that probably played into that.”
“We’re also seeing an increase in absentee voting as well,” he said. As of Friday, November 2, the Election Commission issued 250,000 absentee ballots statewide.
“Absentee voting will continue through Monday with absentee voting in person where ballots will continue to be issued until Monday at 5:00. So already, 250,000 ballots issued and when we look back at 2014 there were a total of 157,000 absentee ballots cast,” Whitmire said.
“It’s a strong sign that people want to vote in this election. They want to participate and so that’s a good sign…It’s impressive. It’s about a 66 percent increase,” he said.