Grand Strand absentee voting sets records


Absentee voting in Horry and Georgetown counties has topped the charts, breaking records set in 2008 with 12,887 votes tallied in Horry County and 7,882 ballots requested in Georgetown County.

The 2008 absentee vote totaled 12,710 in Horry, and in Georgetown four years ago, there were 6,978 requests for absentee ballots.

Sandy Martin, director of Horry County’s Registration and Election Office, said that nearly 17,000 absentee ballots had been mailed to voters by Friday, but she can’t say how many will be returned by Tuesday’s deadline.

A total of 4,400 Georgetown voters had cast in-person absentee ballots by Friday afternoon, said Registration and Elections director Donna Mahn.

The surge is absentee voting is being seen across South Carolina.

Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. Elections Commission, said Friday that 374,211 absentee ballots had been requested as of Friday afternoon and 310,600 of them returned. The number of returned ballots statewide on Friday surpassed the 2008 total by nearly 10,000 ballots.

South Carolina requires people who want to vote by absentee ballots to submit an application with ballots being mailed to them when approved. It also allows people to vote absentee in-person at designated places if they give a reason why they won’t be able to vote on the regular Election Day. The state has no early voting process, but the in-person absentee voting is almost the same thing.

It’s not certain why absentee numbers are running at a record, but the state’s Democrat and Republican parties have pushed absentee balloting this year.

Democrats call the party’s early vote effort the “Obama Model.” Party chairman Dick Harpootlian said the party has spent more than $100,000 over the last month encouraging people to vote absentee.

The Republicans have sent an absentee voting mailer to 100,000 households in the 7th Congressional District, said state GOP director Matt Moore.

Although absentee ballots may be requested either through the state or local elections offices, there is no reason to do so now. Ballots are mailed to those who would vote absentee after the applications are received, and with just days until the election, mailing them is no longer feasible.

But Horry and Georgetown residents can still cast in-person absentee ballots on Monday.

In Horry County, where government offices are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., votes may be cast at the Registration and Elections Office at 1515 Fourth Ave. in Conway.

Georgetown voters can vote in-person absentee between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday at 303 Hazard St.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.