MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – With the final Presidential debate before Election Day on Thursday, South Carolina has already seen record numbers of absentee ballots already cast, especially in Horry County.
A pandemic, a Presidential election and a toss-up U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic candidate Jamie Harrison are the recipe for shattering 2016’s early vote records in the Palmetto State.
“We’re probably, right now, on pace easily to double that,” said Drew Kurlowski, who’s an assistant professor of political science at Coastal Carolina University. “We might see upwards of actually a million early absentee or mail-in ballots this year, so the number is extraordinarily high.”
According to the state Election Commission, 64,681 votes have already been cast in Horry County, as of 5 p.m. Thursday. That’s more than three times higher than the 19,444 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 general election. There have been 741,322 total absentee votes cast statewide so far.
Horry County also ranks third in the state in ballots already cast, falling only behind Charleston (80,727 votes) and Richland (68,942) counties. One-quarter of Horry County’s 251,885 registered voters have sent in their ballots.
In the Pee Dee, every county but Marlboro County has already passed their 2016 absentee ballot totals.
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Georgetown County is second in the state in percentage of registered voters who have already cast their ballots, with 28.23% of the county’s 46,922 registered voters already voting absentee.
“We’ve seen, I think, across all demographics, an increase in voter turnout,” Kurlowski said.
Kurlowski says since early voting is up so much, it’s hard to tell if those ballots are favoring any candidate. South Carolina voters don’t register for a particular party, unlike some states, so party vote splits don’t exist.
Since so many people are looking to avoid Election Day lines because of the coronavirus, it also may not necessarily show drastically more voters.
“A lot of the lessons and a lot of the metrics that we use to gauge turnout based on early vote just don’t apply this year,” said Kurlowski.
With a tense election in an already devastating year, Kurlowski has one piece of advice in the last 12 days.
“Just relax and take a deep breath,” he said. “It’s a very stressful time, notwithstanding our political environment. Interestingly, looking back at past elections, not a lot changes in the last few weeks.”
If you live in Horry County, click here to learn about the absentee voting process. You can also find links below to the elections boards for voting information in all of News13’s counties:
- Darlington County
- Dillon County
- Florence County
- Georgetown County
- Horry County
- Marion County
- Marlboro County
- Robeson County (NC)
- Scotland County (NC)