South Carolina logged one of the lowest turnouts in the past 20 years as voters trickled to the polls to cast ballots in primaries that boasted no statewide offices.
Turnout was estimated to be less than 20 percent.
“Quiet in Anderson,” State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said, reading a series of emails from county election commissions. “Low turnout, Horry. Oconee, slow to moderate. Hampton, low. Allendale, quiet. Slow in Lancaster.
“We expected low turnout but not this low,” he said.
With 31 of 46 counties reporting Tuesday night, turnout was at 10.4 percent. But Whitmire said that number would inch up as larger counties like Greenville, Richland and Horry rolled in.
He predicted turnout of from 15 to 19 percent.
“Needless to say we’re not going to set any recoprds for turnout tonight,” Whitmire said.
The lowest turnout was in Berkeley County, where only 5.1 percent of the voters turned out because of empty ballots in some areas.
Whitmire credited the low turnout to not only a lack of statewide races, but a lack of competitive local races.
In Richland County, for example, the race generating the most interest was sheriff, where incumbent Leon Lott and former State Law Enforcement Division agent James Flower competed in the Democratic primary.
Low turnout was reported in the Midlands, in part because of a severe thunderstorm that rolled through just before 5 p.m. when people were getting off work.
By midafternoon, turnout in Lexington County’s large Whitehall precinct remained low: 206 voters had cast ballots by 3 p.m., poll director Henry Butler said. Of that total, 23 people voted in the Democratic primary, he said. The Whitehall precinct has 2,280 active registered voters.
With 76 of 96 precincts reporting Tuesday night, turnout was listed at 14 percent — half of what Lexington County official expected.
In Richland County’s active Ward 33, roughly 85 people had voted by 2:50 p.m. Poll workers there said most folks came in early.
With 99 of 149 precincts reporting Tuesday night, turnout was listed at 9.33 percent.
With the low turnout, polls reported a minimum of problems, Whitmire said. “No lines. No widespread problems.”
Staff writers Erin Shaw and Clif LeBlanc contributed to this report.
Statewide Primary Turnout
1998 - 27 percent
2014 - 16 percent
2016 - 15 percent to 19 percent