Voter turnout so far is steady but not busy in the race for Lexington County sheriff, election officials said Tuesday.
Poll managers at four precincts in Cayce and West Columbia reported light turnout through mid-afternoon, a level they said is typical at an election for one post at a nontraditional day for a ballot.
“We figured it would be slow and it is,” said Haskell Hydrick, poll manager at West Columbia 1.
Some voters agreed it took effort to remind themselves about the ballot continuing until 7 p.m..
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“It’s an unusual time,” said Frances Shealy after she voted in Cayce 1. “It was hard to remember it.”
County officials are expecting a turnout of no more than 10 percent of 162,000 voters to settle a race among four Republicans from which the first new sheriff elected in two generations will emerge.
About 2,000 absentee ballots were cast before the polls opened, officials said.
Candidates are Richland County deputy Justin Britt, criminal justice instructor Ed Felix, Assistant Lexington town Police Chief Jay Koon and West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall.
The race was created when former Sheriff James Metts stepped down in mid-December after 42 years in office shortly before pleading guilty to a federal misconduct charge of interfering in the handling of two illegal immigrants at the county jail.
“It’s surprised some people,” Alice Brooks, a poll worker in Cayce 3, said of the ballot. “It’s been the same candidate for that post for so many years, all their lives for some people.”
Election director Dean Crepes said although there were some problems getting machines running, polls were ready for voters at the required 7 a.m. start.
A runoff election will take place March 17 among the top two finishers in the contest Tuesday if no one receives more than 50 percent of ballots. Another election will occur April 21 at which the GOP nominee will be the only candidate on the ballot.
The next sheriff will take office in late April. He will oversee a staff of 500 deputies, jailers and assistants that handled nearly 86,100 calls for help during the year that ended June 30.
Staff writer Harrison Cahill contributed to this story.