Polls have closed across South Carolina. Voters flocked to cast ballots today, and in most places voter turnout was heavier than expected for a midterm election.
With several hours still left to vote, York County voter turnout averaged 35 percent in most areas, with a high of 47 at Laurel Creek at 3:30 p.m., according to Wanda Hemphill, director of York County Registrations and Elections.
Susan Richmond, poll manager at Doby’s Bridge in Fort Mill, says the number of voters today is running a close second to the number in the 2008 presidential election. Nearby, Lake Wylie Lutheran poll manager Marcy Skogen said the crowd is better than expected. She also compared it to the presidential election, but said there's a more consistent stream of voters today than in 2008.
All precincts in York County and Chester County ran smooth, with a few scattered problems.
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At the Cotton Belt Elementary poll location in York, voting was delayed at 7 a.m. for about two or three minutes when none of the machines were working. The county “rover” in charge of fixing broken voting machines solved the problem quickly, said Bonnie Davis, poll supervisor.
The heavy voter turnout is leading to long lines across Lancaster County, said Rick Crimminger, chairman of elections committee.
"Everything's open and operational," Crimminger said. "We have people lined up at almost all of the polls. It's heavy turnout for a midterm election."
He said there were a few problems with the audio voting machines, but those were resolved quickly.
Issues drive voters
Healthcare and education were on the minds of residents in York as the first votes were cast today.
Erica Cabbagestalk, 41, said she voted for U.S. Rep. John Spratt for Congress because of his commitment to bi-partisan politics. She is a supporter of Spratt’s plan for healthcare reform, she said.
“I think we need to give the new healthcare bill a chance and see what it can do for the American people,” Cabbagestalk said.
She also voted for political newcomer Alvin Greene in the U.S. Senate race because of Greene’s plans to support public education and make classroom quality a priority, she said. Despite the fact that Greene lacks political experience, Cabbagestalk said it’s times like now that “a new perspective is needed.”
Another voter agreed, saying that arrogant politicians should be voted out.
Jack Carroll, 72, was near the front of the line before polls opened and was first to cast his vote at the Trinity Center location in York.
“My concerns this year are social security, Medicare and I don’t like the arrogance that we see in Washington right now and for the last 18 months,” he said. “And I voted accordingly.”
Carroll, a Republican, voted along party lines this year because Republicans understand that “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Retired teacher Mary Elyn Carroll, a self-described “Yellow Dog Democrat,” said her motivation in voting today was to support the incumbent Spratt against his challenger Mick Mulvaney.
“I think (Spratt) has served not only this district but this state and this country,” Mary Elyn Carroll said. “He has the courage to cast votes that are right for the people.” Carroll, 70, said she has seen the sentiment change over time as Spratt has served in office; those who once supported the Democrat may not be doing so anymore. “If he loses, it’s not his loss,” she said. “It’s ours.”
In Rock Hill, John Johnson said he came to vote because "it's the right thing to do." He said governor and U.S. House of Representatives races interested him.
"I voted for Nikki Haley," he said. "I think she's the right woman for the job."
Eric Johnson said he also voted for Haley and Mulvaney for Congress.
"John Spratt had enough time," he said. "We need a change. ... It's a free country, let's keep it that way."
Victor Wilson said keeping Democrats in office in Congress motivated him to vote.
"I want to keep the country going in the proper direction," he said. "I voted for Spratt. I like the way he supports the President and what Spratt has been doing in office."
Elizabeth Washington said she came to vote this morning because "it's what you do." She said she's been voting in every election since she was 21.
"We need change down here," Washington said.
Voting for governor and U.S. House District 5 topped Washington and Mary McCullough's lists. Both said they voted for Democrats Vincent Sheheen and Spratt.
Rock Hill resident Robert White said getting rid of people from office drove him to the polls. He said wanted to vote against Spratt because he disagreed with his support of the health care bill.
Retired school teacher Terri Turner said she left the voting booth confident that her voice was heard. She added that there were more political signs in her neighborhood than she could remember from any other election.
Spratt woke up at 4:45 a.m. today so he could make it to the shift change at the Bowater paper plant. He had breakfast at Ebenezer Grill in Rock Hill to meet some more voters. And then he was off to Cotton Belt Elementary School in York to cast his own vote, and campaign a little bit, and try to squeeze out a win with the political world tilted against him.
He and his wife, Jane, headed for the cafeteria to vote, and he gave a quick prediction: "It's a tossup."
In a recent interview, Spratt predicted S.C. communities would find it tougher to get help from the federal government under a new batch of anti-government conservatives such as Mulvaney.
“We can’t afford to have another clone of Mark Sanford in the Congressional delegation,” Spratt said Monday during a rally at the Rock Hill/York County Airport. “I served with Sanford and he got very little accomplished.”
Mulvaney continued pushing the “Spratt has changed” theme that defined his campaign from the beginning.
“If you want to change Congress, you have to change your Congressman,” Mulvaney told voters in his closing TV ad.
Voters across York County shared mixed opinions about Spratt as they left their polling places.
Democrats deserve more than two years to fix the nation’s problems, and health care reform was a courageous starting point, said Robert McDonald, a 51-year-old financial worker from Rock Hill.
“We can’t be the richest country in the world and have people not able to get health care,” he said. “Nothing is perfect. I think it’s a start.”
Voters upset by the slow pace of the economic recovery are taking out their anger on Spratt, said Houston Ross, 61, a distribution center worker who lives in Rock Hill.
“A lot of the problems in Washington were not John Spratt’s fault,” said Ross. “Unemployment is high. There’s a lot of frustration. I think it’s unreasonable to think all of this would be straightened out in 18 months.”
What's at stake
Voters in York County, in South Carolina and across the nation go to the polls today in an election with a lot at stake:
York County voters and others in the 5th Congressional District will decide whether to return or unseat a 14-term incumbent.
South Carolina voters could elect the state's first female governor.
Across the nation, control of Congress is up for grabs.
Here's what you need to know to vote today
When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (if you are standing in line at 7 p.m., you'll still get to vote)
Where : See links to the left for a list of York and Chester county polling places. Not sure what precinct you live in? Go to scvotes.org and click on "Check your voter registration."
Who : You must already be registered to vote to cast a ballot today. If you have recently moved and did not change your voter registration, you can cast a provisional ballot.
Why : It's your duty as a citizen.
Did you know?
Since the 2008 general election, the number of registered voters in York County has increased by 5,210 to a total of 127,128. That's an increase of 4 percent.
Lancaster County, at 8.2 percent, leads the state in the growth of registered voters since the 2008 general election. The number of registered voters in Lancaster County is 42,396.
In Chester County, 19,021 people are registered to vote, an increase of 2.9 percent since 2008.
The York County precincts with the highest voter turnout in the 2008 general election were Laurel Creek, 87.9 percent; Mount Gallant, 87.8; Pleasant Road, 85.9; Tools Fork, 85.7; Gold Hill, 85.5. The county average was 76.9 percent.
The York County precincts with the lowest voter turnout in the 2008 general election were Anderson Road, 63.2 percent; Bethel No. 1, 65.3; Riverview, 68.2; Cannon Mill, 69.9; and Rock Hill No. 4, 70.3.
In Chester County, the precinct with the highest voter turnout in the 2008 general election was Halsellville at 87 percent. The lowest was the combined Great Falls 1 and 2 at 63 percent. The county turnout was 77 percent.
In Lancaster County, the precinct with the highest voter turnout in the 2008 general election was Belair at 85 percent. The lowest was Pleasant Valley at 63 percent. The county turnout was 74 percent.
Got Election Day news, photos or precinct complaints?
Send your photos and reports to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 329-7073