BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Early voting has kicked off in Beaufort County today. Some key mayoral races and council races are on the ballot – but what might turn out to be the biggest issue? The Beaufort County Schools’ biggest referendum ever.

“I wanted to raise my voice and vote early and it’s not busy right now so it was perfect,” said Bluffton resident Gonneke Bakels.

Voters in the City of Beaufort, Town of Bluffton and Town Of Port Royal will all elect new mayors.

There are also some council seats up for grabs too. but, every voter in the county will have a say on the county’s school’s referendum. Local elections like these during off years tend to go unnoticed but election officials say that they shouldn’t.

“In the local election when the president is not on the ballot, some people have a tendency to think it’s not important,” Marie Smalls Beaufort County Elections Director explained. “The local election will affect you more personally than the nationwide election.”

The referendum has a price tag of $439 million dollars. If passed, it will expand existing schools and build new ones – making more room for students. We spoke to voters both in favor and against it.

One couple told News 3 they fear if it’s passed – the Lowcountry will get even more crowded.

“When you build a new school, you know, then you can build other developments and it’s just getting ridiculous,” Bluffton resident Betsy Dowling said. “We’ve been here 20 years and the difference between 20 years ago and now is incredible. And the traffic, everything. So where we want to stop that.”

Unlike absentee voting, you don’t need an excuse. So, anyone who’s registered to vote can skip the election day lines. 

“Being it’s the first day. A lot of people still have not gotten the word, but as the week progresses on, I’m sure the turnout will increase,” Smalls told News 3. 

She continued, “When we get closer to the election,  then people will realize the urgency and come out and vote.”

You have until November 3 to vote early. There are four polling locations throughout the county and you can also vote absentee by mail.

For details on early voting in Beaufort County, see the original press release below:

Beaufort County announced on Oct. 17 the early voting locations and schedule for the November 7, 2023 elections today.

Early voting will take place from October 23 – November 3 (Monday-Friday) starting at 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be closed on weekends.

Early Voting Centers can be found at the following locations:

  • Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County (Main office) 15 John Galt Rd Beaufort, SC 29906
  • Bluffton Recreation Center Gymnasium 61A Ulmer Rd Bluffton, SC 29910
  • Hilton Head Government Complex 539 William Hilton Pkwy Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
  • St. Helena Branch Library 6355 Jonathan Francis Senior Rd St. Helena Island, SC 29920

Any registered voter is able to visit an early-voting location in Beaufort and vote like they would at their polling place on Election Day which will take place on November 7, 2023.

Potentially on Beaufort County ballots will be the Fripp Island PSD Bond Referendum, the Countywide School Bond Referendum, the Town of Bluffton, the Town of Port Royal and the Town of Yemassee (Part).

Beaufort County asks that voters bring a valid Photo ID (or voter registration card if they do not have a Photo ID).

The following are acceptable types of photo IDs:

  • S.C. Driver’s License
  • S. C. DMV Identification Card
  • S. C. Voter Registration Card with a Photo
  • Federal Military ID
  • US Passport

If you miss early voting, you still have time to vote on the November 7 election day.