Elections

Thousands apply to vote absentee in Beaufort County

Maria Walls, left, listens with mother-in-law Marjorie Walls, center, as they talk with Sherry Zedd, president of the Sun City Republican Club, and Delores Foziel Friday after voting absentee at the Bluffton voting site on Ulmer Road.
Maria Walls, left, listens with mother-in-law Marjorie Walls, center, as they talk with Sherry Zedd, president of the Sun City Republican Club, and Delores Foziel Friday after voting absentee at the Bluffton voting site on Ulmer Road. Sarah Welliver

Before he moved to Sun City Hilton Head four years ago, Robert Gallagher waited in lines for at least 30 minutes on Election Day to cast his vote in a busy New York precinct, he said.

Friday afternoon, he made a quick stop at the customer service desk, then cast his ballot without any delay on one of six iVotronic touch screens at the new Bluffton absentee-voting office on Ulmer Road.

The 69-year-old Gallagher is one of more than 3,000 people who have applied to vote absentee before the Nov. 2 general election, according to Scott Marshall, director of Beaufort County's Board of Voter Registrations and Elections. In-person absentee voting started Wednesday, and Marshall said about 43 people showed up at each office on Friday. He said things went well at the Beaufort office, on John Galt Road.

"(It was) not quite as busy as we'd like it, but maybe we ought to chalk that up to a Friday," Marshall said.

Elections board member Ellen Bray said she doesn't expect lines to be out the door as they sometimes were two weeks before the 2008 election. But she and Marshall do expect absentee voters to increase "exponentially" as the Nov. 2 election draws closer.

In the last mid-term elections in 2006, the county received nearly 6,000 absentee ballots.

Rena Brannock, who came to vote with her husband, Ken, at the Bluffton office, said she wasconcerned many weren't aware of the new polling office. In the past, in-person absentee ballots were cast south of the Broad River at Hilton Head Island Town Hall. But that office has been closed and relocated to Bluffton.

The new office had a flurry of traffic Friday because the campaign of 2nd Congressional District Rep. Joe Wilson, who faces Democratic challenger Rob Miller of Lady's Island, bussed in about 20 voters, including Gallagher.

"I'll vote for anyone who can show me character, real character, and loves our country," said the former Republican turned independent who said he voted for Wilson.

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