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Election Day in Beaufort brings out first-time voters to early risers and more

By Mindy Lucas

In an election that broke records in early voting, Beaufort County voters started going to the polls on Oct. 5 and didn’t stop until Tuesday night.

In Beaufort, Election Day opened with a chilly start as temperatures hovered just below 40 degrees. At 6:30, Jackie Antley stood bundled up in her winter coat waiting for her polling place to open Tuesday morning.

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 there early.

Antley had already driven by the election office twice – once on Friday and again on Saturday – to check out the line.

“It was just too long,” she said. This time though, her efforts had paid off. There were just 10 doors would be opening soon.

Farther back in line, Beaufort City Councilman Mike McFee stood talking with Pigeon Point resident, Fran Calvert.

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 was running for re-election, was one of six candidates vying for two seats on city council. However, it was unclear Tuesday night, if McFee would capture one of those seats. Mail-in ballots had yet to be counted.

Later in the morning, mayoral candidate Stephen Murray was spotted campaigning with family in tow. Murray, who faced Mike Sutton in the race, won the seat, according to election results reported Tuesday.

Over in Port Royal, Port Royal resident, Edward Sisselberger, was wearing his “lucky shirt” when he stepped out of his polling place around noon.

Sisselberger had worn the stars and bars themed shirt in several elections and, of course, the Fourth of July.

With no lines and no real waiting at the precinct, Sisselberger said it went fast with no problems.

“And the people here are really nice,” he said.

Bob Sofaly photo
Poll worker Dean Moss, left, checks to make sure voters in Port Royal have not issues.

Shortly after Sisselberger finished voting, first-time voter Angel Holmes walked up, determined to cast her vote.

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, Holmes went in search for her ‘I Voted’ sticker and made sure she had one before she left.

Across town Beaufort mayoral candidate Mike Sutton and his wife, City Councilwoman Nan Sutton, were waving signs on the corner of Ribaut and Depot roads.

As cars drove by honking horns of encouragement, they said they had been at it since early that morning.

“But I think we’re going to knock off soon,” Nan Sutton said.

Mike Sutton served two terms on Beaufort’s City Council and faced Stephen Murray for the city’s top spot. Nan Sutton decided not to run for re-election.

Out on St. Helena Island, poll workers were marking the last half hour of what had been a very long day.

With no lines and only one or two voters trickling, 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 poll workers reported – voters showed up in the first few hours of the day then the lines disappeared and voting activity died off.

Martha Riley was one of the last to vote at her precinct on St. Helena Island Tuesday night.

With 10 minutes left before the polls were to close, she arrived to a nearly empty parking lot and 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.

“It feels good,” she said after voting. “I had to make sure I got my vote in. It’s cool.”