CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - County election commissions across South Carolina have reported varying degrees of turnout throughout Saturday's primary election with extremely light turnout in some areas and heavy turnout in others.
"The fact that the citizens of South Carolina are turning out to vote in what has been a stormy day in many parts of the state is a testament to their dedication to making their voices heard by casting their ballots," said Marci Andino, Executive Director of the S.C. State Election Commission. "We appreciate the preparation, enthusiasm and dedication of voters who went to the polls and voted today, and encourage those who have not yet voted to do so by 7 p.m. today."
Saturday's primary is huge for the GOP candidates because SC has picked the eventual nominee since Ronald Reagan back in 1980.
At The Palms in Mt. Pleasant, officials say they have had a little over 170 people vote so far, with more in the last two hours than most of the morning. Longer lines are being reported at Daniel Island Elementary and West Ashley Middle School.
"We are thankful for the tireless efforts of the thousands of poll workers and election officials across the state who have worked diligently in the months and weeks leading up to this primary to ensure that every vote matters, and every vote counts," Andino said.
Unofficial results will be available tonight on Live5News.com. Results will be certified by the county election commissions on Thursday and by the State Election Commission on Friday.
There have been 22,957 absentee ballots have been cast so far as of Jan. 20 for the South Carolina presidential primary, according to the state's Republican Party. The deadline to return your absentee ballot is 7 p.m. Saturday, the same time the polls close.
South Carolina's primary has always been held on a Saturday except for in 2004 when it was held on a Tuesday. Election law does not require the race to be held on a Saturday, but some say holding the primary on a Saturday allows for higher turnouts, since most folks don't have to work on the weekends and it allows SC to have its own primary date. Tuesdays usually feature multiple state contests.
Before you head to the polls, you can't forget these things. Make sure to bring at least one form of identification. It can be a voter registration card, driver's license or DMV issued card.
Keep in mind that write-in votes are not allowed Saturday. They are typically allowed in most elections except for political party primaries or presidential and vice presidential elections.
Also note that SC is an open primary, which means any registered voter can cast a ballot and you don't have to be a registered republican.
After months of campaigning, hundreds of TV and radio ads and dozens of visits from the candidates, the voters get their say Saturday. The candidates will be all over SC campaigning Saturday.
Mitt Romney will be in Columbia all day including Saturday night for his election night party. Rick Santorum will make a visit to Greenville at 1:30 p.m. Santorum will end his day in Charleston at The Citadel's Buyer Hall at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate a possible victory.
Newt Gingrich will be in Greenville, Anderson and Laurens. Gingrich plans to hold a post-primary victory celebration in Columbia at 8 p.m.
Ron Paul's campaign office has not returned calls about Paul's plans for Saturday. His website doesn't list a schedule either.