When the presidency isn’t on the ballot, voters tend to stay away from the polls.
But 2018 could be different.
When South Carolina’s registration deadline passed Wednesday, the number of new voters registering was more than double the number signing up before the last midterm, in 2014.
In the four months before the registration deadline this year, 90,844 previously unregistered South Carolinians signed up to vote. In the same period four years ago, only 42,878 joined the voter rolls.
With control of Congress, plus South Carolina’s governor and other statewide offices on the ballot, more South Carolinians want their voices to be heard. The numbers may be up because of the contentious midterm election. But voting also is receiving more attention on social media.
“There are so many national groups now that reach millions of people that are encouraging voters to register,” said Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission. “For example, Facebook does a major push that puts reminders to register in everyone’s news feed. Twitter, Uber and other apps have similar outreach efforts.
“This was not happening in 2014.”
The boost in voter registrations also extended across racial, political and geographic lines.
- 18,879 African-American South Carolinians registered to vote this year, compared to 9,507 during the same period in 2014. New white voters jumped by a similar amount — to 64,207 this year from 30,603 in 2014.
- In largely Democratic Richland County, 7,290 new voters signed up, an increase from 2,122 in 2014. In largely Republican Lexington County, there were 5,336 new registrations, up from 2,425 in 2014.
- In the Piedmont’s York County, 6,392 new voters signed up, almost double the 3,455 new voters in 2014. The Lowcountry’s Beaufort County saw a similar jump to 4,289 from 2,173. In the Grand Strand’s Horry County, new registrations tripled to 9,818 from 3,642.
It ’s unclear if Hurricane Florence added any impetus to voters’ decision to sign up.
But it did buy them more time to register.
A state Circuit Court judge pushed back the registration deadline 10 days this year after the storm caused severe flooding in parts of the state.