Absentee voters a key in strong-mayor balloting

dhinshaw@thestate.com November 14, 2013 

  • Voting absentee

    Columbia voters have until 5 p.m. Dec. 2 to go by the Richland County election office at 2020 Hampton St. to vote absentee in person.

    Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    To request an application for an absentee ballot by mail, call (803) 576-2240. Allow enough time for the office to process the application and mail the ballot. The final day for the office to mail ballots is Nov. 29.

— Absentee balloting began Wednesday in the referendum for a new form of government in Columbia, a factor that activists on both sides of the strong-mayor question say could sway the outcome.

In the first two days of absentee voting, 14 people cast ballots, said deputy director Lillian McBride.

Adam Fogle, a political strategist for the campaign advocating a new form of city government, said absentee voters could make the difference in the outcome on Dec. 3.

Nearly 5 percent of the 15,458 ballots cast in the recent mayor’s race were absentee votes. To Fogle, that foreshadows the importance of absentee voters in the upcoming referendum on whether to change from a council-manager form of government to a mayor-council form.

“In most city elections, you’ll see 5 to 10 percent of the votes cast absentee,” he said.

“A few hundred absentee votes absolutely could make a difference.”

His campaign organization is including a reminder about how to vote absentee in all direct mail and social media, he said.

“We’re certainly educating voters on the fact that absentee voting is underway.”

Those fighting to retain Columbia’s current form of government are aware of the importance of absentee ballots, too.

“In this election, every vote is going to count,” political strategist Kit Smith said.

Fogle and Smith each said their campaigns are relying on a grassroots, person-to-person approach.

“I think it’s going to be a low turnout race, so strategically we think it’s very important to talk to voters one-on-one, knocking on doors, making phone calls – just talking to people,” Fogle said.

“Our focus is that they know where to vote, when to vote.”

Smith said the personal approach is labor intensive.

“It really and truly is grass-roots, word-of-mouth,” she said.

Those supporting the current form of government are being asked to put out yard signs, make phone calls and send postcards to friends – “postcards that you put the stamp on yourself, please,” Smith said.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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