BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) — Early voting in Beaufort County has been underway since Oct. 23 but numbers show that most voters aren’t coming to the polls.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Beaufort County Board of Elections said around 2,300 voters had skipped the lines and cast ballots so far. However, according to the state election office that’s only around 2% of registered voters in Beaufort County.
“Unfortunately the turnout is not what we had expected,” said Marie Smalls, the Beaufort County Director of Voter Registration and Elections.
That low turnout is not what the Board of Elections predicted. With the biggest school bond referendum in county history sitting at nearly half a million dollars on the ballot. Also, in mayoral races in Bluffton and Beaufort, election officials thought that would drive out more voters.
“It’s an off-year election, which typically does have a lower turnout,” Smalls said. “But because we do have a county-wide referendum on the ballot, I thought that would have some interest and have people to come out. Of course, we still have Election Day, too.”
Experts agree that the off-year is a factor that drives down turnout. They say another reason voters aren’t casting ballots is because they might not know as much about local races or issues.
“People feel less informed about the candidates, about the issues that they’re voting on, and that will often discourage people from coming out to vote,” said Kimberly Martin Tecklenburg, a Georgia Southern University political science professor. “So maybe you know a whole lot about Joe Biden or Donald Trump, but you don’t know a whole lot about, you know, Joe, whoever who’s running for city council.”
That’s different from last year’s midterms. On those ballots, there were national races and big issues but without that, getting people to the polls is tough.
“They were voting on a whole slew of high profile, high stakes issues. And not only that, but they were also voting for high profile candidates as well,” Martin Tecklenburg said. “And so this year, we just really aren’t seeing that when it comes to elections. And so you’re going to have a little bit lower voter motivation and you’re going to see these lower numbers out at the polls.”
However, if you still want to skip the lines on voting day you still have time. Early voting runs until Friday with election day happening on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
There are four early voting locations across the county:
- Beaufort 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