While official turnout numbers will not be available until some time after the polls close, reports from several Midlands precincts hint at low turnout.
By midafternoon, for example, 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.
In Richland County’s active Ward 33, roughly 85 people had voted by 2:50 p.m. The precinct has 1,175 registered voters, according to voter numbers from the November city elections. Poll workers there said Tuesday most folks came in early.
And in Ward 13, 144 people had voted by 4 p.m. at the Rosewood Elementary location, according to a poll clerk there. The precinct has 1,945 registered voters.
Mary Brack with the Richland County Election Commission said while officials haven’t gotten any numbers, they’ve heard it has not been busy at most polling places so far.
Statewide, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said turnout has been light in local primaries.
There are no statewide races being decided Tuesday. There are only three contested primaries in U.S. House races, and just 39 legislators in the S.C. General Assembly’s 170 seats face a challenger.
Whitmire said there have been only a few voting glitches.
In two Richland County precincts, custodians didn’t unlock polling places by the time the polls were supposed to open at 7 a.m. In one Aiken County precinct, the poll workers didn’t initially realize there was a Democratic primary on the ballot so some early voters ended up voting instead in the Republican primary.
Whitmire said some voters not casting Democratic primary ballots could be an issue for a subsequent protest if the election is close.
Polls close at 7 p.m.
There were some issues early Tuesday with Richland County voting machines in two precincts, according to elections director Samuel Selph.
However, the issues were fixed and things have run smoothly and efficiently since, Selph said just before lunchtime.
There were some malfunctioning voting machines in Wildewood and Rice Creek 2 precincts in Northeast Richland, Selph said, but they were fixed within 45 minutes.
Affected voters in both precincts were given paper ballots to cast votes, he added.
Turnout was low at Lexington County’s Whitehall precinct, even for a primary, the head poll manager said just before noon.
By 11:30 a.m., 119 of the precinct’s 2,280 active registered voters in the precinct had cast votes at one of three new polling sites in the staunchly Republican county.
However, the lunchtime and after-work surges might raise the turnout percentage, poll director Henry Butler said.
Miriam Johnson, a 69-year-old always-voter, said her ballot Tuesday is a protest vote against GOP congressman Joe Wilson.
“I don’t like people who yell out in the State of the Union, ‘You lie!’ “ said Johnson, who is a rarity in the county: a self described liberal Democrat.
Johnson said she’s less interested in local government, so her votes generally are limited to federal and State House races.
“Slow, slow, slow” is how polling manager Sandra Dodd described voter turnout in Westover for Tuesday’s primary election.
Dodd said she was surprised by the low turnout because the area typically has active voters and “there has been a lot of publicity about this election” locally.
Four candidates are seeking the GOP nomination for the House seat held by state Rep. Kenny Bingham, who is retiring, in a district that stretches across Cayce and West Columbia.
“We’re hoping it picks up,” she said.
Voter turnout at the Rosewood Elementary polling station has been slow and quiet, said polling manager Veronica Gordon.
As of 9:15, 45 people had voted, but that number should pick up around lunchtime, Gordon said.
“It’s a nice day with no rain,” to deter people from coming in, she added.
The Democratic primary in Ward 13 includes the contested sheriff’s race between Leon Lott, who has been sheriff for 20 years, and challenger James Flowers, a retired State Law Enforcement Division.
Rosewood neighborhood resident Elizabeth Blevins was unsure of who she was going to vote for as she headed to the pollsTuesday morning.
“I’ve been watching and reading about the candidates but haven’t committed to one person,” she said.
Once she saw the names on the ballot she’d decide, she said.
Voting in Lexington County was going smoothly as of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s good, everyone is up and running,” said Mary Brack, manager of the Lexington County election commission.
Very few precincts have called in with issues, and any minor problems from this morning have been resolved, Brack said.
Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.
Contributing: Staffers Clif LeBlanc, Eileen Waddell; The Associated Press
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