York County voter rolls have expanded in four years, but the final push to register voters ahead of the Nov. 6 election ended Saturday with about half the new registrations this election year as four years ago, York County elections officials said.
More than 8,600 York County residents have registered since January compared to more than 16,000 in the same time frame in 2008, said Wanda Hemphill, with York County Registration and Elections.
The number of voters registered in York County will likely top 145,000 once all applications, including those submitted online, are processed, Hemphill said. That’s a 19 percent increase from four years ago, when President Barack Obama defeated Republican nominee John McCain.
South Carolina offered an online voter registration option for the first time this year, said Chris Whitmire, communications director for the S.C. State Election Commission.
It launched Tuesday. By Friday afternoon, 11,835 applications for new voter registrations statewide had been submitted, he said.
Rick Whisonant, who teaches political science at York Technical College, said diminished excitement over this year’s campaign explains the drop in registration numbers.
In 2008 there was a “lot of excitement, especially with the presidential election coming up” and voter registration “skyrocketed” among youth and minorities, he said.
This year, “the campaign is all about yesterday,” with the candidates talking about past presidents they admire. “That doesn't draw any kind of excitement,” Whisonant said.
That lack of enthusiasm was evident Saturday at York County’s elections office on Cherry Road in Rock Hill, where people came to register ahead of the statewide deadline.
Nathan Truesdale, 20, of Catawba, said, “Everyone needs to (vote), but the thing that discourages people from voting is not having someone to vote for.”
Truesdale said Obama hasn’t lived up to his promises, but he will still get his vote.
“One plus for Obama,” the college student said, was his support of lowering tuition rates.
At 62, Johnny Martin of Rock Hill hasn’t voted in many years. In 2008 the retired utility company worker “didn’t want to take the time to do it.”
Now he has more time and he wants “to change the government,” he said. “I don’t think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said, citing gas prices and the deficit as his reasons to vote.
Dre McElveen and Harrison Toney, both 21 and seniors at Winthrop University, also registered for the first time Saturday.
“Our vote is necessary,” Harrison said when asked why he wants to vote.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s stance on abortion and taxes are reasons Toney said he will vote to re-elect Obama.
McElveen said “the social equality issue” and a “lack of concern from Romney for the less fortunate” is why he’s voting for Obama.
Eileen Cline, 60, of Rock Hill by way of New York, said she was “very uncommitted” in this election, though leaning unenthusiastically toward Obama. She wasn’t even sure whether she was going to register until the debate Tuesday night, when Romney “looked like he was trying” and Obama looked “asleep.”
“Neither answered anything,” she said, but Romney’s “image was better.”
Jamie Self 803-329-4062