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York, Lancaster Counties see big increases in voter registration. Women lead the way

York County voters ‘unsure’ about voting, candidates’ stance on issues that impact citizens

Some voters in York County agree that voting is important, but are unsure about the candidates, about the issues that will impact their lives and whether they will vote at all. Some voters say they will vote on a straight political party.
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Some voters in York County agree that voting is important, but are unsure about the candidates, about the issues that will impact their lives and whether they will vote at all. Some voters say they will vote on a straight political party.

More than 6,000 more people in York and Lancaster counties are registered to vote than there were before the 2016 presidential election, according to the S.C. State Election Commission.

Midterm elections typically see a smaller turnout than presidential elections. Political parties are hoping more registered voters will mean more people actually vote.

Voter registration statewide has slightly decreased since the 2016 presidential election, numbers from the State Election Commission show. But 259,582 more people are registered in S.C. to vote in the Nov. 6 midterm election than were registered to vote in the last midterm election in 2014.

2,877,683 people were registered to vote in October 2014 across South Carolina, compared to 3,137,265 people registered to vote statewide as of Oct. 18, according to the State Election Commission.

In York County, 22,665 more people are registered to vote in November than were registered by October 2014. And 3,241 more people are registered to vote than were registered for the presidential election.

In Lancaster County, 8,230 more people are registered to vote in November than were registered by October 2014. And 3,085 more people are registered to vote than were registered for the presidential election.

In Chester County, the numbers are less striking. There are 27 more people registered to vote in the 2018 midterms than were registered by October 2014. And there are 1,067 fewer people registered to vote in 2018 than there were in 2016.

Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission told The State the increase since 2014’s midterm election might be due to a social media push.

“There are so many national groups now that reach millions of people that are encouraging voters to register,” Whitmire told The State. “For example, Facebook does a major push that puts reminders to register in everyone’s news feed. Twitter, Uber and other apps have similar outreach efforts.

“This was not happening in 2014.”

Local political party chapters have been pushing voter registration too, and women are registering to vote at higher rates than men in the more densely populated counties like York County.

The United States Census Bureau estimates there were 201,415 people 18 years and older living in York County in 2017. That means 85 percent of the estimated eligible population registered to vote in 2018.

But 97 percent of the 2017 estimated number of eligible women have registered to vote in York County in 2018, compared to only 74 percent of eligible men.

York County Democratic Party Chairperson Jim Thompson said more people tend to vote in presidential elections than do in midterm elections.

“Presidential elections get a lot of attention,” he said. “It’s glitzy, all the lights, attention in the media. And sadly people think that’s the only election they need to be voting in.”

But Thompson said the York County organization has worked hard to register people to vote in the midterms.

“I think a lot of (the increase in registration) has to do with the outcome of the last presidential election,” Thompson said. “Some people woke up and said ‘oh my god, what happened?’ So lets hope they’ve decided to participate.”

Thompson told The Herald in June that he was happy to see high percentages of women registering.

“We’ve seen a big uptick not only in women registering to vote but in their activities as far as volunteering with a political campaigns or party and as candidates this year,” Thompson said. “So that may have to do with what happened in November 2016, but not probably exclusively. I think women sometimes are a little bit more involved in issues in the community, so they may be more apt to register.”

York County GOP President Tyler Griffin said he thinks Republicans are equally motivated.

“I think there is interest in the Democratic side because they’re the party out of power,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s fair to discount Republican enthusiasm.”

Griffin said he’s spoken with several people who have never voted before but are now getting involved in politics because they agree with President Donald Trump.

“We’re going to keep working up until Nov. 6,” he said. “Because we’re excited. We’re motivated.”

In-person absentee voting has opened in South Carolina. Voters can visit their county voter registration office to complete an application and vote until 5 p.m. Nov. 5.

Election day is Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot

The State reporter Bristow Marchant contributed to this story.

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