Turnout slow to start primary election, volunteers say

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJune 10, 2014 

Kyle Caldwell casts his vote in Tuesday's primary election at Hilton Head Precinct 1A in the gym at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts. Poll workers at the precinct said that, as of late morning, turnout had been low for the election.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

  • At the polls

    Polls will be open until 7 p.m. throughout Beaufort County.

    The rest of the day is expected to be sunny, with a high temperature of about 88 degrees and no rain, according to the National Weather Service.

    When voters enter the polls, they will need to choose which party's primary they will vote in -- Democrat or Republican -- and present photo identification, under a new state law.

    In the event of a runoff, voters will only be allowed to cast their ballots for the party they choose today. Voters who do not vote today can vote in a runoff of either party.

Primary election voting got off to a slow start this morning in Beaufort County, according to some poll volunteers.

At two precincts on Hilton Head Island, only about 1 to 2 percent of registered voters in the area had turned up to vote by late morning, volunteers said.

Volunteers Marti Willits and Betsy Schaper said fewer than 20 voters visited their polling location on South Forest Beach Drive in its first few hours. The pair has volunteered at the location for the past four years and said Tuesday's numbers have lagged behind previous elections.

"We pretty much know the people who are coming here because they've voted right here before," Willits said. "We wish there were more."

Tuesday's primaries include a race for Beaufort County Auditor and three County Council races. The winners in each likely will claim the seats, because they have no opposition in November's general election so far.

Almost 30 voters turned out to the polls set up at the Hilton Head Island Library by mid-morning. But that accounts for only about 2 percent of voters registered in the two precincts set up there and volunteers said it's the slowest they've seen the polls in the past three elections.

Turnout at the Bluffton Library was slightly higher, with more than 100 hundred voters casting ballots at the three precinct polls set up there, poll volunteers Diane and Dave Stortz said. However, Diane Stortz expressed the same concerns about low turnout and added today is among the slowest election days she's seen in 16 years of volunteering at the polls.

The low turnout was expected, election officials have said.

Fewer than 1,500 voters have cast absentee ballots, well below past turnouts, even for other mid-cycle elections, according to Maria Smalls, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration.

Particularly without a contest in the governor's race during the primary, interest has seemed lower than usual, Smalls said.

"Election Day is always fun because you see people coming out and exercising their right," she said Monday. "A lot of those people don't know what it takes behind the scenes to make this happen, so when we see people coming out to the polls and casting their votes, it's all worthwhile."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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