Polls open for statewide primary election with thousands of absentee votes cast

VIDEO: Polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for statewide primary election

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for a statewide primary election for federal, state and municipal races.

But this primary will be different in terms of the number of people actually voting in-person because of the coronavirus pandemic.

SPECIAL SECTION: Campaign 2020

Last month, Gov. Henry McMaster signed legislation to expand absentee voting because of COVID-19. State election officials say counties are dealing with a number of absentee-by-mail ballots that is more like a presidential election than a statewide primary.

Based on the numbers in so far, South Carolina has tripled the previous record of absentee ballots cast for a statewide primary. More than 182,000 absentee ballots were issued across the state for this primary, compared with the previous record of 60,000. While we aren’t likely to break the overall record, election officials say we could break the record for percentage of ballots cast by absentee, but that will depend on how many people show up at the polls.

At least check in the Tri-County area, Charleston County had 19,603 absentee votes while Berkeley County had 6,269 and Dorchester County had 5,100. Dorchester County election officials said this is the largest by-mail turnout in a Dorchester County primary, about five times more than in a normal primary.

Voters are being encouraged to check their polling place, because approximately 250 of them have changed for Tuesday’s vote. In the Lowcountry, Charleston County had the most, with changes made to polling place locations in 20 precincts. The changes were prompted either by concerns about the novel coronavirus or a shortage in poll workers that forced counties to consolidate some polling places.

Click here for the full list of changes.

Before you head to the polls, you can check out the sample ballot for your precinct at the South Carolina Election Commission’s website, SCVotes.org. You’ll be asked to enter the county you reside in along with your first and last name and birthdate. The system will verify your voter registration and show you the ballot for your precinct.

Once you go to your polling place, you will need a photo ID.

When voting in person, you will be asked to show one of the following Photo IDs:

  • SC Driver's License
    • Includes standard license and REAL ID
  • SC Department of Motor Vehicles ID Card
    • Includes standard ID card and REAL ID
    • Includes SC Concealed Weapons Permit
  • SC Voter Registration Card with Photo
  • Federal Military ID
    • Includes all Department of Defense Photo IDs and Veterans Affairs Benefits Card
  • US Passport
    • Includes US Passport ID Card

Be sure to bring your photo ID with you. If you forget to bring your photo ID, you may vote a provisional ballot that will count only if you show your Photo ID to the election commission prior to certification of the election (usually Thursday or Friday after the election).

If you have not been able to obtain a photo ID, bring your non-photo voter registration card with you to the polling place. You may vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit stating you have a reasonable impediment to obtaining Photo ID. A reasonable impediment is any valid reason, beyond your control, which created an obstacle to obtaining a Photo ID. Some examples include:

  • Disability or illness
  • Conflict with your work schedule
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of a birth certificate
  • Family responsibilities
  • Religious objection to being photographed
  • Any other obstacle you find reasonable

This ballot will count unless someone proves to the election commission that you are lying about your identity or about having the listed impediment.

To vote under the reasonable impediment exception:

  • Inform the poll managers that you do not have a photo ID and could not get one.
  • Present your current, non-photo registration card.
  • Sign the affidavit provided by the poll managers stating why you could not obtain a Photo ID.
  • Cast a provisional ballot that will be counted unless the county election commission has reason to believe your affidavit is false.

Though polls officially close at 7 p.m., anyone who is in line to vote at 7 p.m. will still be allowed to do so.

You will be asked to maintain social distancing guidelines and take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

If you encounter problems at the polls, you can call the South Carolina Election Protection Hotline to report them. The number is 866-687-8683 or 866-OUR-VOTE.

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