Election offices face challenges with huge SC voter turnout

More than 1 million voters have cast ballots in Palmetto State

Election offices face challenges with huge SC voter turnout
Every county voter registration office will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s already been a record-breaking election when it comes to voting in South Carolina.

More than 1 million people have already voted absentee across the state, and there are still four days to vote absentee before Election Day.

“I was really excited when I got in there because I didn’t have to wait in line,” Gail Voravudhi, a Richland County voter, said. “I just walked right in.”

Chris Whitmire with the South Carolina Election Commission said the state has never seen more than 500,000 absentee votes in South Carolina.

“It’s almost like every day is Election Day,” Whitmire said. “At this point, we are voting 60,000 people a day.”

Whitmire said this record-breaking turnout hasn’t come without its challenges, particularly when it comes to curbside voting.

“Voters will arrive at the in-person absentee voting location and see that voters are voting from their cars, and think, ‘Oh, this is a COVID provision? This is convenient. I’ll get in this curbside voting line,’” Whitmire said.

Here are some important things to know about curbside voting:

  1. It’s for those unable to access the polling place or stand in line due to disability or being age 65 years or older.
  2. It does not require a disability parking placard.
  3. Only the voter is allowed in the vehicle unless entitled to assistance.

Whitmire said the curbside line is also for people who have an illness.

“If a voter has been diagnosed with COVID, they can vote, and they should do that curbside at their polling place,” Whitmire said.

Richland County Voter Registrations and Elections Director Alexandria Stephens said they’ve already had 71,000 people vote in person and more than 40,000 ballots returned by mail in total.

“I’m seeing an increase in the number of voters. It’s just that they’re being processed really, really quickly.” Stephens said. “We’ve gotten some additional equipment so we can process voters faster.”

“I was like, 'Wow, this is the quickest I’ve ever voted,” Voravudhi said. “Normally, we have to wait a little, but I just walked right in.”

However, for other voters, the process hasn’t been as simple.

“First of all, I’m disabled. I walked up from that parking lot back there, got all the way up there, and was turned away, walked all the way up the hill, was turned away from there. Then, I walked down to get my car and spent 10 minutes just trying to get into this place,” Bob Rightsell, a Richland County voter, said. “Now, I’m here curbside voting because that’s the only damn voting I’ve seen.”

Stephens said that the polling locations were extremely busy right when they opened. She said the number of voters has remained steady, but she expects to see a surge this weekend with it being the last weekend for early voting.

Every county voter registration office is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday.

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