‘A lot of excitement’: High voter turnout marks midterm in York, Chester, Lancaster

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Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, all voters were asked to provide one of the following types of Photo ID at their polling place.
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Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, all voters were asked to provide one of the following types of Photo ID at their polling place.

Voter turnout is typically lower for midterm elections, but 2018 set a record for midterm voter turnout before all the votes were counted.

Both York and Lancaster counties issued more than double the number of absentee ballots in 2018, compared to 2014.

And by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday — with two and half hours left to vote — several precincts had surpassed the voter turnout from 2014’s Election Day.

By that time Tuesday, 606 people had voted at the Rock Hill City Hall, with at least 20 in line at the time. In 2014, 599 people voted at that precinct on Election Day.

York County elections director Wanda Hemphill said several precincts were already reporting at least 50 percent voter turnout by 5:45 p.m., something only four precincts did in 2014.

Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at many local polls.

William Cureton of Pineville A.M.E. Zion Church in Rock Hill drove the church van around Rock Hill Tuesday to give voters who might not have transportation a ride to the polls.

By mid-afternoon, he had given rides to 12 voters, he said.

“It has nothing to with color, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat,” Cureton said. “We’re just doing what the church is supposed to be doing.”

One voter even drove eight hours Monday to vote before Election Day.

“I drove from Ohio today, just so I could vote,” said Michael McCann, adding that he wasn’t able to get his absentee ballot in quickly enough.

In South Carolina’s 2014 midterm elections, 43.8 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, compared to the 67.9 percent statewide voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election.

Hemphill said many issues have affected voter turnout.

The gubernatorial election between Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and Democrat James Smith has been closely watched, as has the Congressional race between Rep. Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill) and Democrat Archie Parnell.

Parnell and Norman faced off in the 2017 special election to replace Mick Mulvaney, which turned out to be one of the closest Congressional races in South Carolina in 20 years.

The last time Parnell and Norman went up against each other, voter turnout was even lower than the 2014 midterm. In the 2017 special election, 18.3 percent of registered voters in the 11-county Congressional district cast a ballot.

But Hemphill said besides the big races, local issues were motivating voters to show up at the polls.

“We knew that there was a lot of excitement surrounding this particular midterm,” Hemphill said. “We have a lot more contested races on the ballot. Any time you have that, you typically have more interest.”

By 5 p.m. Monday, 298,445 absentee ballots had been issued in South Carolina, compared to the 164,233 issued in 2014.

York County issued 12,267 absentee ballots by Tuesday, a 112 percent increase from 2014’s 5,782 issued ballots.

Lancaster County issued 6,014 absentee ballots by Tuesday, a 115 percent increase from 2014’s 2,795 issued ballots.

Chester County had a smaller increase, issuing 2,113 absentee ballots by Tuesday, compared to 2014’s 1,457 issued ballots.

Michael Stover of Rock Hill said he wanted to be a good example for his son, who is learning about voting in school.

“I just want to make sure my voice is heard,” Stover said. “I’m just doing my civic duty as a voter.”

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot
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