By MINDY LUCAS
7 p.m. – Polls Closed!
Martha Riley was one of the last to vote at her precinct on St. Helena Island Tuesday night.
When she arrived to see a nearly empty parking lot, with 10 minutes left on the clock, she thought she might be too late.
“I thought, ‘Where is everybody,’” she said, laughing.
A United States postal worker, Riley said she had been “rushing around” all day but kept thinking she had to find time to vote. It’s important, she said, because if you don’t vote you can’t voice your opinion on anything, she said.
“It feels good,” she said. “I had to make sure I got my vote in. It’s cool.”
Poll workers at St. Helena Island precinct 1A were marking the last half hour of a long day.
With no lines and only one or two voters trickling in, several commented on the lack of activity.
“We were busy earlier in the day and thought we’d get a dinner rush but then nothing,” said poll worker Pamela Farris.
That was the case at many precincts North of the Broad – voters showed up in the first few hours of the day then the lines disappeared and voting activity died off.
As of 6:30, 410 people had voted at the precinct.
Beaufort mayoral candidate Mike Sutton and his wife, City Councilwoman Nan Sutton, were out waving signs on the corner of Ribaut and Depot roads Tuesday afternoon.
They said they had been at it since 9 a.m. as cars drove by honking horns of encouragement.
“But I think we’re going to knock off soon,” Nan Sutton said.
Mike Sutton has served two terms on Beaufort’s City Council and faces Stephen Murray for the city’s top spot. Nan Sutton is not running for re-election.
First-time voter Angel Holmes was determined to cast her vote on Tuesday. After going to one precinct, she was sent to Port Royal Town Hall to try and get her paperwork straightened out.
Without a photo ID she could only cast a provisional ballot, but it was enough to make her happy.
“Regardless of who wins the election, you should vote because every vote does count. Your vote counts,” she said.
She was also proud to be young voter.
“I don’t think you see a lot of 18-year-olds voting,” she said.
Another reason voting is important?
“Because 2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone,” she said. “A lot of people have lost jobs because of COVID, kids are not in school or not getting an education. It’s just a lot of things.”
After chatting for a few minutes more, she went in search for her ‘I Voted’ sticker and made sure she had one before she left.
Port Royal resident, Edward Sisselberger, wore his “lucky shirt” so to speak to vote on Tuesday, at Port Royal Town Hall.
He’s worn it in several elections now and, of course, the Fourth of July, he said.
With no lines and no real waiting at the precinct, Sisselberger said it went fast and with no problems.
“And the people here are really nice,” he said.
As of 12:20, 486 people had voted at the town hall which includes Port Royal precincts 1 and 2.
By mid-morning, 1289 people had voted at the Charles L. Brown Activity Center, which includes three precincts in Beaufort, according to poll workers at the location. The majority of voters cast their ballot earlier in the day, poll workers later said.
The wait to vote at the Charles L. Brown Activity Center – which includes Beaufort precincts 1,2 and 3 – had shortened considerably by 8:30 a.m. and everything was moving quickly with “no long lines,” reported Island News staffer Kim Sullivan.
Down the block, Sullivan spotted Beaufort mayoral candidate Stephen Murray out campaigning with family in tow. Murray faces Mike Sutton for the city’s top spot.
Beaufort City Councilman Mike McFee stood in line talking with Pigeon Point resident, Fran Calvert just before the doors opened at the Charles L. Brown Activity Center.
Calvert had brought a tablet with a Netflix movie queued up – just in case.
“We’re treating this like an airline flight,” she said. “Arrive two hours before departure.”
McFee, who is running for re-election, is one of six candidates vying for two seats on city council.
When asked for a quote, he smiled and said, “It’s going to be a great day.”
Jackie Antley was bundled up in her winter coat Tuesday morning and with good reason.
With temperatures hovering just below 40 degrees, Election Day in Beaufort opened with a chilly start.
But Antley and the other early risers who had arrived just minutes before her at the Charles L. Brown Activity Center had a game plan – get their early.
Antley had already driven by the election office twice – once on Friday and again on Saturday – just to check out the line.
“It was just too long,” she said.
This time though, her efforts had paid off. There were just 10 people in front of her and the doors would be opening soon.
Unlike Antley who waited until Election Day to vote, more than one million South Carolinians have already cast their ballots in the General Election, doubling the record for absentee voting set in the 2016 General Election, according to the S.C. Election Commission.
The highest turnout in a presidential election in the past 25 years was 76% in 2008, according to the commission.
If the 2020 General Election matches that turnout, approximately 2.7 million of the 3.5 million registered voters in South Carolina will vote.
Will you be one of them?
Above/ Top Photo: Voters wait for their polling place at the Charles L. Brown Activity Center on Hamar Street in Beaufort to open. Photo by Mindy Lucas