There’s been an almost 90 percent increase in absentee ballots issued from 2014 to 2018 in both York and Lancaster counties ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
“For a midterm, this has been a lot more busy and steady than we’ve seen historically,” said York County Elections Director Wanda Hemphill.
Absentee ballots typically don’t account for a majority of overall votes, making up for only 12.5 percent of statewide votes in 2014’s midterm election and 23.7 percent of statewide votes in the 2016 presidential election.
But South Carolina voters have turned out to vote before Election Day in especially large numbers for this year’s midterm election.
As of 4 p.m. Friday, 261,822 absentee ballots – a 59 percent increase from 2014 with 164,233 absentee ballots – had been issued for this year’s midterm election statewide.
In York County, 10,968 absentee ballots had been issued as of 4 p.m. Friday, an 89.7 percent increase from the 5,782 absentee ballots in 2014.
Midterm elections typically see less interest and fewer voters than presidential elections, but Hemphill said interest in this year’s midterm election isn’t surprising. There are more contested races – and more Democratic candidates – on the York County ballots than there have been in the last 10 years.
“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.”
In Lancaster County, 5,332 absentee ballots had been issued as of 4 p.m. Friday, a 90.8 percent increase from 2,795 absentee ballots four years ago.
Lancaster County Elections Director Mary Ann Hudson said she didn’t expect to see such a large increase, but voters told her increased media attention about politics and voting, and the current political climate, is driving them to vote.
“They think it’s more important than ever to cast their ballot and be heard,” Hudson said.
Chester County saw a slight increase in absentee ballots issued before Tuesday’s election. As of 4 p.m. Friday, 1,617 ballots had been issued, an increase of 11 percent from the 1,457 absentee ballots issued in 2014.
South Carolina voters who want to vote early have to fill out an absentee voter application, and then submit absentee ballots, either by mail or at the county voter registration office. Voters can return absentee ballots to their county voter registration office until 7 p.m. Nov. 6.
Polling places will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.