MYRTLE BEACH — With Election Day just around the corner, Republican and Democratic party leaders in Horry County are working hard to make sure that voters make it out to the polls Tuesday.
Both parties have been phone banking since the summer, with Democrats beginning in the end of the August and Republicans starting at the beginning of September. Volunteers in both parties will continue calling registered Independents, as well as Democrats and Republicans to explain why the candidates they support – both for president and the new 7th Congressional District – are the ones for the job.
“Horry County is the nexus of victory for Romney, Ryan and Rice for District 7,” said Horry County Republican Party chairwoman Johnnie Bellamy. “Our phone bankers have been [averaging] 1,200 phone calls a day. We have very active and dedicated phone bank members.”
The chairwomen of both parties said they registered voters throughout the campaign season and up until the Oct. 6 deadline.
“We saw a higher number of applications when we were doing our voter registration drive. We had a lot in , but this year we had several hundred voter registration applications,” said Horry County Democratic Party chairwoman Doris Potter Hickman.
Bellamy said she saw a number of people who said they previously voted for Democrats switch to join the Republican Party. She said she even saw many people who were registering to vote who had never voted before, something she said was different than in 2008.
“They said, ‘I’ve never voted before but I think I need to vote this time.’ And they’re from all walks of life,” she said. “I believe there are about 46,000 people who are of voting age but are not registered.”
According to the U.S. Census, there were about 215,000 residents in Horry County age 18 or older. There are nearly 171,000 voters registered in Horry County, according to the S.C. State Election Commission. A little more than 9,000 people registered to vote in Horry County between mid May and the end of October, according to Sandy Martin, director of Voters Registration and Election.
Besides phone banking, Bellamy said the Republican Party is encouraging residents to wave signs on Election Day during rush hour and is training volunteers to serve as poll observers at precincts with a high percentage of registered Democrats on Election Day.
“Poll observers will watch the process as people come into the polls and make sure all the rules are being followed. And see how people are handled,” Bellamy said. “If there’s any question, they can challenge votes.”
Bellamy said the observers could challenge a vote if someone sees a poll worker directing a voter instead of just offering technical assistance.
Hickman said an executive committee member from the Democratic Party will set up staging areas in five areas of Horry County on Election Day to assist any voters who may need help. If voters know of anyone who wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls on Tuesday, the Democratic Party would send someone out to give them a ride to vote or call 488-4237. Voters can also call the Republican Party at 488-4445.
“When we’ve been phone banking … we ask if they need a ride to the polls. If they do we fill out an application with the time they would want to go and if they have a handicap because we could arrange curb-side voting,” she said.
Hickman said the Democratic Party has focused on making sure the people who registered and voted for the first time in 2008 return to the polls next week.
“We’re focusing on the northwestern part of the county,” Hickman said. “We want everyone in the county to vote, but our focus [going into Nov. 6] is that group of voters,” she said.
Bikers also will ride through Horry County promoting the Democratic ticket, Hickman said. And on Election Day voters are welcome to join them at party headquarters for a fish fry.
Bellamy said phone bankers will continue to call voters – all in the 7th Congressional District – through Election Day.
“Some people think that it’s a forgone conclusion that Romney is going to carry South Carolina and Rice will win, so some people focus on the swing states. But our focus is District 7,” she said.
No matter which candidates voters choose, Hickman said it’s going to be a full few days leading to the election.
“I heard that this number will be larger than in 2008,” she said. “It’s quite a busy time.”
Contact reporter MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.