Study: SC residents eager to vote, hesitant to act

South Carolinians are among the most likely to vote, but among the least likely to take action after they cast their ballots, according to a new study.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said he thinks he knows why civic engagement ends for many in the Palmetto State as soon as they leave the voting booth.

"I know people are frustrated; I know they have not seen good examples of people in public life nationally, and they're turned off to the riff-raff," Keyserling said. "The bottom line is that people don't feel the issues that affect them day-to-day are being addressed."

"But that's not the case," he added.

Among the 50 states, South Carolina ranks 13th in voter registration, 14th in voter turnout for the 2010 mid-term elections and 19th in turnout for the 2012 presidential election, according to the study released last week by the University of South Carolina Upstate and the National Conference on Citizenship.

However, South Carolina ranks among the bottom four states in other forms of political activism, such as boycotting products and contacting public officials.

That so many South Carolinians vote -- at least relative to the rest of the country -- suggests local officials and elections offices are successful in swaying new voters, according to Marie Smalls, director of Beaufort County Elections and Registration.

During the 2012 presidential election, South Carolina ranked sixth in the nation for turnout among voters between 18 and 29 years old, according to the study.

However, young voters' civic engagement paralleled the state's overall trends, dropping off sharply after casting their ballots, according to the study. These voters ranked among the bottom 15 states in discussing politics several times a week, exchanging favors with neighbors and belonging to an organization, according to the study.

Those results show there is still substantial work to be done to turn those repeat voters into repeat public participants outside the polls, Smalls and Keyserling said.

Whether it's visiting with local clubs or signing up new and more faces to civic advisory boards, public officials need to do more to draw members of the public into its processes, election year or not, Keyserling said.

"It's a double-edged sword. The candidates have a responsibility, and the voters have a responsibility," Smalls added. "But it's like they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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