An uncommon occasion for a midterm election: voters have to wait at South Carolina polling stations.
Usually during midterm elections and non-presidential years, voting is an in-and-out affair in many polling stations throughout South Carolina. And with record absentee balloting in South Carolina, personal turnout remains high at the polls.
“I think turnout is reasonably good,” said one voter at a polling station in West Columbia Tuesday morning, where the wait was about 30 minutes. “It’s the highest I’ve ever seen here. In fact, I think the line is about a half-hour.”
100 people had voted by 8 a.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Columbia.
“I think based on past polls where we’ve seen very low voter turnout that this is an extremely good turnout,” said Ally Bowen, who has lived her entire life in the neighborhood. “Great, steady flow since 7 O’clock this morning.”
State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said all counties he has heard from are reporting moderate-to-heavy turnout. “No one’s reporting any light turnout or slow,” he said. “Everything indicates that turnout is probably pretty good out there.”
Tuesday’s turnout comes after South Carolina voters demolished the previous midterm absentee voter high in 2014. Whitmire said more than 285,000 ballots were submitted absentee as of noon Tuesday, with thousands more still expected to arrive by this evening’s deadline. Four years ago, that number was 157,000 absentee votes.
Bowen said she considers it important to vote. “As an American, it is a freedom that we all should exercise and I know that my voice matters even with my one vote.”
The absentee voting was driven by Charleston County, which had 41,000 absentee ballots issued. For comparison, the state’s most populous county Greenville County had slightly more than 20,000 absentee ballots. Charleston is the center of a competitive congressional campaign to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.
One voter suspected that local concerns among the school district may have inspired voters here to go to the polls to elect school board members more so than interest in national races.
“In South Carolina I’m not so sure that the national passion translates to South Carolina,” he said. “South Carolina, I think traditionally, has been a more conservative state than some of the other places where there are big issues. But I could be wrong.”
To find your polling location or to see a sample ballot, click here. Polls will remain open until 7 pm. Those in line at closing time will still be allowed to cast ballots.