CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Nearly a quarter of registered voters in South Carolina came out to vote in Saturday's Republican presidential primary, according to the election officials.
At 11 p.m. Saturday, unofficial tallies showed voter turnout at 24.08 percent.
In the Lowcountry, Beaufort County had the largest turnout, with 32.11 percent, the third-highest in the state. Lexington County came in second with 32.69 percent, while Pickens County came in with the highest unofficial count, at 36.31 percent.
Across the Lowcountry, election officials estimated the following turnout rates:
- Charleston: 20.80%
- Berkeley: 25.27%
- Dorchester: 23.76%
- Colleton: 8.28%
- Williamsburg: 12.54%
Earlier in the day, the South Carolina Election Commission predicted a turnout of as many as 650,000 voters, but the unofficial numbers show more than 713,000 votes were cast.
That includes about 59,000 absentee ballots, compared with only 27,000 cast in 2012.
State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said possible reasons for the sharp increase in absentee voting include campaign efforts to get voters to vote absentee, more awareness of how to do it because of the Internet and social media, early voting in neighboring states influencing people in South Carolina to vote early with absentee ballots and the desire to skip long lines on the day of the election.
A CBS News exit poll revealed terrorism was the top issue on the minds of voters in the Palmetto state.
Next Saturday is the Democratic presidential primary. Voters who cast ballots in the Republican primary are ineligible to vote in the Democratic primary.