Decision day for South Carolina voters is Tuesday, June 12. For Upstate residents, that means you’ll have a significant number of decisions to make.
By now you’ve heard the campaign ads, and maybe even met the candidates in person or watched them talk about the issues in televised debates. Now it’s your turn to weigh in.
Historically, turnout in primaries is low. More than 3 million people are registered to vote in South Carolina, but only 13.9 percent of registered voters participated in the 2016 primary, said Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission.
Participation in primaries is important, because sometimes elections are decided in primaries. Technically, voters can write in candidates who aren’t on the ballot, but it’s unlikely write-in candidates will prevail over a candidate whose name is printed on the ballot.
If you’re new to South Carolina, or if you’re a first-time voter, one of the most important things to know is that the state has open primaries. That means there is no registration by party.
“On the day of the primary, every registered voter can choose to vote in the Democratic or the Republican primary,” Whitmire said. “It doesn’t mean that the person is a Democrat or a Republican, it just means that’s how they are voting today.”
If no candidate in a particular race receives a majority of the votes, the two candidates with the highest vote totals advance in each party to a runnoff election, which will take place on June 26. Since the runoff election is considered an extension of the primary, whatever party you select on June 12, is the party you must vote with during the runoff.
If by chance you miss the primary, you can still vote in the runoff, said Whitmire.
In the general election, voters are given the option of voting a straight Republican ticket or a straight Democrat ticket. Or they can pick and choose candidates in each race.
If you choose the Democratic option, and you don’t do anything else, your vote will automatically be cast for all the Democrats appearing on the ballot.
South Carolina has eight smaller political parties, who may have candidates on the ballot in the general election. Candidates from these parties don’t appear on the primary ballot because they nominate candidates by convention, said Whitmire.
You’ll notice that for the first time this year candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run on the same ticket, instead of in separate races. Some gubernatorial candidates have already announced their running mates, others are waiting until after the primary contests.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Don’t forget to bring your photo identification. Voters can bring a South Carolina driver’s license, a US passport, a federal military i.d., a South Carolina concealed weapons permit, a South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles i.d. card, or a South Carolina Voter Registration Card with photo that can be obtained at your county voter registration office.
If you show up with the voter registration card that comes in the mail, you will be allowed to vote if you sign a sworn affidavit that describes an impediment which prevented you from obtaining a photo i.d.
You can locate your polling place and get a personalized sample ballot at scvotes.org. Whitmire suggests printing the ballot and becoming familiar with the candidates before coming to your polling place. Printing your ballot and studying the records of the candidates before you arrive at your polling place helps you and others vote in a timely manner.
The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail voter guides provide information about the races and candidates.
This year, the newspaper did not offer endorsements, opting instead to give comprehensive coverage of the key races, such as the governor’s race, the Secretary of State and Attorney General contests and the 3rd and 4th district US Congressional races.
About 150 voters quizzed 15 candidates in the 4th District Congressional race in a forum hosted by the News and the Greenville Chamber.
On election night and the day after, visit our websites for election results in real time.
You’ve heard from the candidates. Now it’s time for them to hear from you. Casting your ballot in the primary is just as important, if not more so, than voting in the general election.