Charleston County in-person absentee votes eclipse 2016 numbers in first week

Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 2:53 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON S.C. - The Charleston County Board of Elections report that nearly five times more people showed up to vote in-person absentee in the first week than compared to the last presidential election cycle during the same time.

Charleston County Board of Elections Director Joe Debney said at this rate he expects a third of all county votes to be cast before the November 3 election day.

“We’ve already mailed out over 53,000 paper ballots. So, because of that increase we expect that our in-person absentee voting numbers at one of these locations will also increase,” Debney said. “We’re looking at somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 people may vote early prior to the election.”

Monday was the first day for in-person absentee voting at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Daily counts through Thursday show an average of more than 1,300 in-person absentee voters a day to the North Charleston location.

“Our numbers have just been crazy as we’ve been opening those over the past four days,” Debney said.

Voters Jan and Carroll Frye said they expected a larger turnout before election day.

“I’m not surprised. I knew the turn out would be higher than before,” Carroll Frye said. “Sure enough as we came to vote today, it is quite a bit higher, and I think it is because everybody realizes that this is a very consequential election.”

Debney said he expects even more people to come out to the polls early after October 19, when the county opens three additional absentee voting locations, two at the Seacost churches in Mount Pleasant and West Ashley and the third at the Charleston county public library downtown.

“We have increasingly pushed absentee as the way to go because you don’t have to stand in an incredibly long line on election day because we all know that on a presidential election day you’re going to have a longer line than what you would normally see,” Debney said.

Voter Melodie Hurst said that was the motivation for her to show up at the absentee location.

“To avoid traffic because I have experienced before, it was a long, long, long line,” Hurst said.

Election officials want to remind people to stay home if they are sick to protect poll workers and other voters from the coronavirus.

Debney said they did have to turn voters away because of COVID-19 but there have not been any other known exposures or cases among poll workers.

“We have had two people come through that line and say that they did have COVID and we told them to go home we will mail them a ballot,” Debney said. "We want to make sure that they are safe and our workers are safe because if we have an infection at one of those sites then we are going to have to shut it down and we don’t want to do that.

Healthy voters who have requested ballots by mail can bring the completed ballot to any county absentee location. If someone shows up to vote absentee who has already requested vote by mail will be asked to surrender the original ballot in order to vote in person.

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