Voting heavy statewide, absentee ballots setting a record, SC election officials say

Voter turnout has been heavy statewide with only minor problems being reported that were quickly corrected, state election officials said Tuesday.

Many Election Day issues have stemmed from voters turning out after having been inactive for an election cycle or two, or having a change of address.

“It’s been a busy election day,” said Chris Whitmire, S.C. State Election Commission spokesman. “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.”

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 by the 7 p.m. statewide poll closings, he said. Absentee ballots in 2012 tallied 394,698.

So far, 494,205 absentee ballots had been returned in the state, Whitmire said. “We definitely have a new record – it’s just a matter of whether we hit 500,000 or not.”

Richland County also received a record number of absentee ballots for this year’s election, according to Sam Selph, Richland County elections director.

In 2008, South Carolina had a 76 percent voter turnout, or 1,941,480 votes cast, Whitmire said.

There are about 3.15 million registered voters in the state today, so a 76 percent turnout would tally about 2,394,000 votes. “We expect this election to be somewhere in that (2008) range,” Whitmire said. In 2012, registered voter turnout was 69 percent, he said.

There were no reports of multiple voting machines down in any precincts across the state or in any counties statewide, Whitmire said. There were 13,000 voting machines in use in South Carolina Tuesday, but the glitches were few and technicians were able to install replacements in short order, officials said.

In Myrtle Beach, poll workers couldn’t get some machines open Tuesday morning, so they issued paper ballots, Whitmire said. That problem was soon resolved.

In Greenville, some poll workers were questioning voters as to their party affiliation, Whitmire said, which is relevant in the state’s primaries, but not in the general election. That problem persisted for about 30 minutes, he said, before being corrected.

“In a presidential election, non-incumbent year, you get a lot of people to come out to vote who aren’t regular voters – they don’t vote in all the elections we have,” Whitmire said.

Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398