Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

More than 615,000 South Carolinians cast ballots early this year ahead of in-person voting on Nov. 8, state officials said Monday. If overall statewide turnout this year ends up being 1.7 million registered voters as it was in 2018, early voters would be responsible for about 35% of all votes cast.

“Early voting has been a huge success,” said Chris Whitmire, deputy executive director of the S.C. Election Commission. “More than 560,000 South Carolinians took advantage of the opportunity to vote early over the past two weeks.” Another 55,000 cast absentee ballots, he added.

The state offered no-excuse early voting for the first time in 2020 as an emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It turned out, in many ways, to be an experiment that allowed often recalcitrant state legislators to see how it worked before turning it into permanent law.  

Whitmire said the biggest benefit of early voting is it allows people to pick their best day to vote — either one of the 12 early voting days or election day. Additionally, there’s less pressure on bundling all voting into one day, which yields much shorter lines and a smoother process of voting.

“Voters have a total of 13 days during which they can choose the date and time that is most convenient for them to vote,” he said. “Early voting helps election administrators too — spreading the total number of voters across more than two weeks lessens the stress on the process, reducing issues and helping ensure every voter has the opportunity to vote.”

Isaac Cramer, executive director of the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, said the county’s seven early voting locations generated record turnout.

“We have consistently led the state with voters casting a ballot ahead of election day,” Cramer said. “The data shows that early voting is popular in South Carolina.”

Some 67,364 registered voters in Charleston County cast early ballots between Oct. 24 and Nov. 5; another 7,466 voted absentee. The county’s two most popular early voting locations were at Seacoast Church branches in Mount Pleasant (19,981 voters) and West Ashley (15,157), while the least visited location was the Hollywood-St. Paul’s Library (3,022).

In Berkeley County, 21,246 voters cast early ballots, while some 20,994 voted early in Dorchester County, according to state data.

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