COLUMBIA The South Carolina Democratic Party broke its own turnout record in Saturday's presidential primary and eclipsed the number of ballots cast by residents in the Republican primary the week before.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, more than 520,000 votes had been tabulated in Barack Obama's commanding victory. The returns easily eclipsed the 280,000 people who voted in the Democratic primary in 2004.
Democratic officials characterized the record-breaking vote as a sign that the party is resurgent in South Carolina.
"Even in this reddest of all states, Democrats can win," state party Chairwoman Carol Fowler said. "I hope it indicates Democrats are getting a new lease on life."
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Fowler said the high turnout this year was due to South Carolina's early position on the election calendar and the intense race between Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and native son John Edwards.
"When people are excited enough, they'll come out," Fowler said.
Last week, about 446,000 voters took part in the Republican primary, which was nearly 120,000 off the record set by the GOP in 2000.
Republican leaders blamed the drop this year on cold, wet weather as well as Michigan's move of its primary to a date before South Carolina's.
South Carolina election officials reported no problems with voting machines Saturday. Seven days earlier, some of the electronic voting machines in coastal Horry County didn't work properly.
However, in Columbia, some voters left one precinct rather than shiver in the chilly morning air after a poll manager decided to only allow five people inside the building at a time, said Dwight James, executive director of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The civil rights group had monitors at polling places around the state.
The Columbia poll manager thought he was keeping order but quickly was told he couldn't keep people outside, said county election director Mike Cinnamon. "We informed him to open the doors, line them up, whatever he had to do to get the voters in," said Cinnamon, who was unsure how many voters left.