By MINDY LUCAS
For months now, Beaufort County residents have had a front row seat to national politics as a number of candidates for president have passed through the Lowcountry.
Now all the speeches and town halls are over, and it’s the voters’ turn to have their say.
If you’re interested in voting in the Saturday, Feb. 29 Democratic presidential primary, here’s what you need to know:
About the Primary
South Carolina’s “First in the South” primary usually includes both a Republican and a Democratic Presidential Primary held on separate dates.
However, this year is different.
In September, the South Carolina Republican Party voted to cancel its presidential primary and give the state delegates to incumbent President Donald Trump, which leaves only a Democratic contest this year.
Who Can Vote
As an open primary state, registered voters usually can cast a ballot in either party’s primary but not both. Since there is only one contest this year – and South Carolina does not register by party – Saturday’s election is open to all eligible voters.
Who is eligible? Anyone who has registered in South Carolina can vote. However, South Carolina’s deadline to register has passed.
Who’s on the Ballot
Here is who and how the following Democratic Presidential Candidates will appear on the ballot: Joseph R. Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.
Mike Bloomberg chose to skip states holding early primaries so will not be on South Carolina’s ballot.
What Can I Expect?
Generally, primaries don’t see as large a turnout as a general election. However, since there is only one presidential primary this year, and it is on a Saturday, that could draw additional voters.
Or, it may not.
As Beaufort County’s Board of Voter Registration and Elections Director Marie Smalls said, you never know what drives voters to turn out.
“It’s difficult to say, and we really won’t know until Saturday,” she said.
Whatever the case, if there are lines when you show up at your precinct, make sure to bring your patience, and perhaps something to read.
Something else voters should expect – new electronic voting machines. South Carolina’s new voting system, which combines the familiarity of touchscreen technology with the security of a paper ballot, was first rolled out in smaller elections last year. This will be the first statewide election to use the new machines.
To view a video of how the new machines work, go to www.scvotes.org/south-carolina-voting-information-page.
Where to Vote
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29. To find your precinct, check your voter registration, or go to www.scvotes.org.
Also, while South Carolina does not have early voting, voters can still vote by absentee ballot at the county’s election offices up until 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28. Offices are at 15 John Galt Road, in Beaufort, and at 61B Ulmer Road, in Bluffton.
What You Need to Bring
You will need a photo ID in order to vote. The following are accepted:
S.C. driver’s license
S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles ID card
S.C. voter registration card with photo
Federal military ID
If you forget to bring your photo ID, you may vote with a provisional ballot. However, you will need to show your photo ID to the election commission before to the certification of the election in order for your vote to count. The Democratic Presidential Primary will be certified on Thursday, March 5.
After South Carolina’s contest, the focus will shift to March 3, or “Super Tuesday.” That’s when 14 states – including California and Texas – will hold their primaries, all on the same day.
Democratic candidate for President Tom Steyer made a campaign stop at the Family Worship Center in Yemassee on Sunday, Feb. 23. Photo by Bob Sofaly