CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC/AP) - Polls have closed bringing an end to a busy day for voters throughout the Lowcountry.
South Carolina voters started their day on a wet and cold Election Day to select their picks for president, Congress and the Legislature, plus decide whether future governors can choose their running mate.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Reports on lines varied throughout the Lowcountry, with many Charleston voters reporting smooth operation and reasonably quick lines.
Meanwhile, many Berkeley County voters expressed displeasure. We heard from voters who went to Berkeley Middle School in Moncks Corner and were dismayed by the fact poll workers only had one computer to check voters in.
In Dorchester County, the polling station proving most problematic is at Oakbrook Elementary School. Viewers expressed concerns throughout the day about long lines, and at 6:30 p.m., one viewer said cars were still lined up all the way to Dorchester Road packed with potential voters.
Voters for James Island precincts 17 and 19 may have been a bit confused when they showed up at a demolished Harbor View Elementary ready to vote. That voting location was moved to Stiles Point Elementary School, but www.scvotes.org still had the Harbor View location listed.
Republican Mitt Romney is expected to handily win South Carolina's nine electoral votes.
The winner of the new 7th congressional district could be the only change to South Carolina's U.S. House delegation. The state's four freshmen congressmen face foes with little cash in heavily conservative districts. 3 of the Democratic challengers are in their first political race. The state's lone Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Clyburn, is expected to trounce a Green Party opponent, while Rep. Joe Wilson faces no opposition at all.
Only a half-dozen legislators face strong opposition.
One of the biggest races in the Lowcountry this year is between Republican Paul Thurmond and Democrat Paul Tinkler, who are running for the District 41 senate seat left vacant by Glenn McConnell, who was required by state law to fill the void at lieutenant governor following Ken Ard's resignation last spring.
Education is one of the big talkers in this year's election, as voters in Berkeley and Dorchester counties face a big decision for their public schools.
In Berkeley County, voters have to weigh in on a referendum to fund schools. The referendum would increase property taxes by about $40 a year, for people who own a $100,000 home. That money would be used to build new schools and to improve existing ones.
In Dorchester County's District 2 school district, voters are faced with a similar choice. They must decide if they want to pay higher property taxes to build new schools and an aquatic center. The plans call for three new elementary schools, a middle school, vocational classrooms, and renovations to other schools. If that referendum passes, it will mean the property taxes on a $100,000 home go up by $68 a year.
In Colleton County, voters will hit the polls to elect their new sheriff. Sheriff George Malone announced his intention not to run again in April. Voters can choose between Marshall Morehead, a Republican, and Democrat Andy Strickland.
Another key item on the Colleton County ballot is on the subject of a Sunday alcohol ordinance. Currently, no bars or restaurants in Walterboro are allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays, but that could be subject to change, depending on the outcome of today's vote.
5 things to know about the election in South Carolina
1. DOES SOUTH CAROLINA STAY IN THE RED: South Carolina has voted for the Republican presidential candidate eight straight times. All signs point toward Mitt Romney stretching that total to nine. The question may be whether Romney can eclipse the 54% mark John McCain received in the 2008 race and get closer to the 57% George W. Bush got in 2000 and 58% Bush received in 2004.
2. CAN PETITION CANDIDATES WIN: The court decision about financial paperwork that dumped hundreds of candidates off the ballots means the state has an unprecedented number of petition candidates in the general election. They will have an uphill climb. Petition candidates aren't affiliated with a party and don't get votes if a voter chooses the straight ticket option. Election officials said about 50% of voters in South Carolina voted straight ticket in both 2008 and 2010. Thirty-2 of South Carolina's 46 counties have a local petition candidate, and they also are running in seven competitive state Senate races and 17 competitive House races.
3. SOMEONE NEW IN WASHINGTON: Voters in South Carolina's new 7th Congressional District will choose its first U.S. House member. Republican Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice is taking on Democratic Coastal Carolina professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu. The new district runs from Myrtle Beach to Florence. South Carolina's other six incumbents are heavy favorites to retain their seats, and Republican Joe Wilson in the 2nd Congressional District has no opposition at all.
4. RECORD ABSENTEE VOTING: South Carolina set a record for the number of absentee votes cast in an election. As of late Monday afternoon, nearly 376,000 voters have cast absentee ballots across the state. That broke the record of 342,000 absentee votes in the 2008 election. The state has issued 403,000 absentee ballots. If all of those ballots are returned, it would mark 14% of the state's registered voters casting ballots before Election Day.
5. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: South Carolina votes have just one constitutional amendment to consider, but it would be a significant change to state government. The amendment asks if the governor and lieutenant governor should be voted on the same ticket, similar to the presidential race. The change would not take effect until 2018.
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