Residents expecting to show up at the polls Oct. 7 to vote as usual could be in for a surprise.
Fort Mill voters will choose that day between Sean Jones and James Shirley to fill the Fort Mill Town Council seat vacated by Nathan Blythe. The seat is for Ward 1, but all registered voters in town can cast a ballot. Where those voters go and what they’ll need to bring with them is a little different this election.
Nine precincts will vote, but in only six locations. Fort Mill No. 5, ordinarily at the Flint Hill Fire Department, will join Fort Mill No. 4 and Springfield at Unity Presbyterian Church just for this election. Kanawha, a new precinct at Philadelphia United Methodist Church, will vote just for this election alongside Riverview voters at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church.
Voters in the Dobys Bridge (Doby’s Bridge Presbyterian Church), Fort Mill No. 1 (Fort Mill Town Hall), Fort Mill No. 2 (Glenrock Baptist Church) and Fort Mill No. 3 (Sisk Memorial Baptist Church) districts all will vote in their usual locations.
Wanda Hemphill, director of the county Voter Registration and Elections office, said the precincts were relocated because of so-called “doughnut holes” within precincts – areas that have not been annexed into town limits and remain under county jurisdiction.
“The majority of the people who live in those precincts do no live in the town,” she said.
The Kanawha precinct has 26 registered voters living in town limits. With few voters and lower voter turnout expected than presidential or even mid-term general elections, reducing polling locations streamlines the vote.
“We have very, very few voters in that Kanawha district,” Hemphill said. “Basically it saves the town money.”
This week, voters should receive registration cards reflecting 11 precinct changes. Some are re-locations or re-namings. Others are new precincts entirely.
“Those new precincts will be in effect for the October election in the town of Fort Mill and also the November (general) elections,” Hemphill said.
Baxter Village, which is not part of the town of Fort Mill, is now split into three precincts for the general election in November election.
“That had gotten to be over 4,000 voters,” Hemphill said. “It was huge. That was the reasoning for dividing those districts.”
New voter ID requirements
Last year, a new law in South Carolina required voters show photo identification to cast votes. This November brings a mid-term election, and expectation for the biggest voter turnout since the law’s implementation.
Acceptable froms of identification are: a state driver’s license, ID card from the Department of Motor Vehicles, state voter registration card with photo, federal military ID or U.S. passport. The county registration office planned six events where anyone else can get a free photo ID made.
Unity Presbyterian in Fort Mill hosts one event 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Oct. 7, the same day as the town election.
Setting new precincts and issuing photo ID cards this fall should prepare the county in advance of the next presidential election, which draws more voters than any other election.
“We want to give people an opportunity to become somewhat acclimated to them before the presidential election,” Hemphill said. “And before you know it, it will be here.”
For more information about voting, go to yorkcountygov.com or call 803-684-1246.