Heavy voter turnout could meet or exceed record levels set in 2008

Heavy turnout at precincts throughout Horry and Georgetown counties could rival the record number of voters that turned out for the 2008 presidential election, local and state officials said Tuesday.

“There were long lines everywhere,” said Sandy Martin, director of elections and voter registration for Horry County. “We had close to the same number as four years ago, maybe a little better than last time.”

Martin said high voter turnout was steady throughout the day despite cool, overcast weather.

“Busy, busy, busy,” Lisa Bourcier, Horry County’s spokeswoman, said of Tuesday’s voting activities.

Martin said there were some minor problems with some voting machines early in the day, but they were quickly corrected and no major issues reported at any of the precincts. Martin said there was one instance of a machine registering a vote for a candidate that had not been chosen by the voter, but the machine “was recalibrated and then it was fine.” The miscast vote was corrected, she said.

In 2008, which was the last presidential election, 72 percent of Horry County’s registered voters went to the polls to cast their ballots and about 13,000 voted absentee.

Bourcier said “I think we’ll be on track to hit the same percentage this year.”

Georgetown County officials also predicted record or near-record numbers.

Horry County officials distributed 18,585 applications to people who wanted to vote absentee and then sent out 16,891 absentee ballots. Of that number, 15,833 had been cast as of 5 p.m. Monday. A few more absentee ballots were expected to arrive in the mail on Tuesday, she said.

Georgetown County had received 4,400 absentee ballots by Friday, with some additional ballots expected to arrive in the mail.

The large number of absentee ballots mirrored statewide figures, where S.C. voters returned approximately 400,000 absentee ballots to surpass the 2008 record of 342,000 absentee ballots. Anecdotal reports from across the state indicated heavy turnout, and the S.C. Election Commission said it expects total voter turnout to be similar to the record-setting 76 percent recorded in 2008.

“The passion and dedication of South Carolina citizens for the electoral process was on display at the polls today,” Marci Andino, executive director of the election commission, said in a prepared statement.

Horry County voters turned out early and there were reports of long lines at several precincts in the hours after polls opened at 7 a.m.

More than 100 people were in line at the Forestbrook Clubhouse in Myrtle Beach about 20 minutes before the polls opened. Signs led voters to the wrong entrance at Waccamaw High School in Pawleys Island, where another line had formed when voters reached the correct entrance at the rear of the gymnasium.

Many voters were likely trying to beat the wet weather, with sporadic rainfall beginning at about 9 a.m. Temperatures hovered in the high 40s and low 50s throughout the day.

Voters took to The Sun News’ Facebook page to give reports from their respective precincts.

Tuesday morning, one reported there was a long line at the Spring Gully precinct in Georgetown, where there is only one voting machine. Others reported waits at St. James Elementary School, North Myrtle Beach, Ocean Bays Middle School and Carolina Forest Elementary School.

Mid-morning voters at Socastee High School waited up to an hour to cast their votes. The high school hosted voting for two precincts – Lake Forest and Socastee No. 1. Poll manager Diane Watts said it had been busy all day, adding that having the two polling places together was confusing to some people. With two different lines, some voters found themselves in the wrong line before being directed to their correct precinct line.

However, some other voters reported fast-moving lines as the day progressed.

It only took about 10 minutes for one voter to cast his ballot at about 9 a.m. at the Little River No. 3 precinct located at the Little River Fire Station on Baker Street. There had been 290 people to cast their votes before him. Voters at the Burgess No. 2 precinct at the Burgess Community Center waited about 10 minutes to vote shortly after noon. And there was no wait at Little River No. 2 precinct after noon, where nearly half of the registered voters there had cast their ballots before lunchtime. The slower afternoon belied a busy morning at the precinct.

“People had been lined up almost all day,” poll manager Joyce Davis said. “It’s been busy.”

Voters at the Little River United Methodist Church on U.S. 17 did not have to deal with lines early Tuesday afternoon either.

“We usually don’t come this late; we’re early birds,” Herbert Springman said about him and his wife, Doris Springman. “It was not crowded. The staff was helpful.”

Poll manager Stephanie Simmons said it was a busy time Tuesday morning at the Little River United Methodist Church. “There was a line before we opened the door,” she said.