Statewide voter turnout in Tuesday’s presidential election was comparable to the last time South Carolina residents cast ballots for president, but it appeared unlikely to top the 76 percent participation seen in 2008.
Projections by the S.C. Election Commission showed that about 68 percent of the state’s voters would be participating in the election, although final vote counts were not in before 11 p.m. Tuesday. South Carolina has about 3.2 million registered voters.
“For presidential elections, it is going to fall in the average to above average range,’’ said election commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
Tuesday’s voting generally went smoothly, but Whitmire said there were some problems across the state.
“It’s been a busy Election Day,” Whitmire said. “We haven’t had any significant or widespread problems that have affected the ability for voters to cast their ballots. Many of the calls we’re receiving are from voters that did not register by the deadline.”
In Richland County, where voters waited long hours to cast ballots in 2012, people experienced lengthy waits at some precincts early in the day as many sought to vote before going to work.
At Logan Elementary in Richland County, for instance, several machines were down early in the morning. Sam Selph, elections director in Richland County, said the county’s problems resulted when some machines were slow to warm up. But he said those began working and lines to vote grew shorter as the day progressed.
“Everything went fairly well during the day,” he said. “We had little hiccups early this morning when we first started out. Machines were cold. Laptops didn’t start as they were supposed to — but as the day wore on, everything got more settled.”
The county’s largest precinct, Longcreek, had 250 people in line when the polls opened at 7 a.m., he said. But by 2:30 p.m., Selph said 7 people were in line.
Late Tuesday, concerns surfaced about absentee ballots in the state Senate race between Mia McLeod and Susan Brill. The campaigns said there were anywhere between 11,600 and 20,000 absentee ballots either uncounted or unreported.
Selph and Whitmire said Richland County’s turnout initially did not appear as heavy as some other counties, although Whitmire suggested that may be because county residents had cast so many absentee ballots.
Richland was second only to Charleston County in the number of absentee ballots cast, with more than 55,000, according to the state Election Commission. All told, Richland County has 252,739 registered voters.
With all but 10 of Richland County’s precincts reporting, voter turnout was 42 percent, according to the Election Commission. In Lexington County, it appeared the voter turnout would be about 66 percent of eligible voters, according to county election officials.
By 2 p.m. Tuesday, South Carolina already had broken the state’s absentee voting record set in 2012, Whitmire said. The state could tally 500,000 absentee ballots cast, he said. Absentee ballots in 2012 tallied 394,698.
In heavily GOP Lexington County, turnout at the large Whitehall precinct reached 1,217 voters, which poll manager Henry Butler said is typical for a presidential election. Butler has worked at the precinct — which has 2,304 registered voters and includes one of the county’s largest subdivisions — since 1994.
Some voters showed up at their precincts but weren’t allowed to vote because of questions about their addresses or other concerns. By procedure, those voters were sent to the county’s registration and election’s office. There, the county resolved questions and allowed people to vote, Selph said.
Byrdie and James Brown raced to cast their ballots at the elections office after being denied the chance to vote at their precinct in north Columbia. Poll workers said they had not voted in eight years, which made them inactive, she said.
The Browns were the last people in line at 7 p.m., when voting ended.
“We were determined to vote,” she said.
Staff Writers Tim Flach and Clif LeBlanc contributed to this story.