Voting in primary elections Tuesday will be about signatures on petitions as well as casting your ballot.
Voters will be at polling places to vote. But the campaigns of several Midlands candidates removed from the ballot by court order also will be at the polls, seeking voters’ signatures on petitions to qualify would-be candidates as independents on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Those efforts will be more pronounced in Lexington County, where a dozen candidates are marshaling supporters for the job. Three similar efforts are expected in Richland County.
“At the polls, you know you are getting voters” when you talk to someone, said Scott Adams, who hopes to become a candidate for Lexington County Council this fall. “People are receptive to doing it.”
Some petition drives are countywide while others are only in select areas.
The number of signatures needed to become an independent candidate varies with the post sought, from about 750 to more than 7,800. The deadline for submission of petitions is July 16.
Some candidates are cooperating with each other, handling petitions for each other.
Election officials in both counties relaxed limits on political activities near the polls to make it easier for those seeking signatures to approach voters after ballots are cast. But anyone openly advocating candidates who are on Tuesday’s ballot must stay farther back.
And poll managers retain authority to move signature efforts further away if hassles develop.
The harvest of signatures may be less than some candidates want if predictions of a turnout lower than recent primaries prove accurate.
There are significantly fewer contests among Democrats and Republicans after about a fourth of candidates statewide – including 22 in Lexington and Richland counties – were taken off the ballot, some as recently as Thursday.
It’s too late to remove from ballots statewide the names of about 40 candidates who were just disqualified.
So how will voters know who’s legitimate?
Signs will be posted at polls saying that ballots cast for those candidates can’t be counted.
Candidate removals were forced by court orders for their failure to file disclosure of personal finances correctly. New guidelines for supplying that information caused confusion among candidates and county political parties about what the deadlines were.
It means voters in Lexington County will settle four contests compared to the 14 originally expected. Those in Richland County will settle seven compared to 10 originally.
So far, absentee balloting is much less than in primary elections in 2008 and 2010, officials said.
In Lexington County, about 1,000 were received by Friday – a third of what officials say is usual. In Richland County, just over 350 ballots had been cast – a tenth of the total two years ago.
Lexington County election director Dean Crepes expects about 20 percent of the county’s 157,000 voters will go to the polls Tuesday, compared to recent turnouts of nearly 30 percent.
“Things are shaping up for it to be pretty low,” he said of Tuesday’s turnout.