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Voters in South Carolina Primary Broke Turnout Record

March 3, 2020 by Dan McCue
Behind the scenes at the the Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate in Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Saturday’s First-in-the-South Democratic presidential primary had the highest turnout ever recorded in the history of the contest.

According to the South Carolina Democratic Party, more than 539,000 voters cast a ballot in the primary, about 7,000 more than cast a ballot in 2008, the previous record-holder and the year then-Sen. Barack Obama was running for president.

Officially, the South Carolina Board of Elections put Saturday’s turnout at 539,136. That’s 6,985 more votes than the official tally of 532,151 ballots cast in 2008.

“This is a monumental moment for Democrats in South Carolina,” said state party chair Tav Robertson, Jr. in a written statement. “Voter turnout from this past weekend reflects what many of us already knew: South Carolinians have had enough. These numbers should scare Republicans, especially Trump’s lackeys like Lindsey Graham.

“South Carolinians are clearly ready to send Lindsey home, re-elect Joe Cunningham to Congress, take back the State Senate, and continue to elect Democrats up and down the ballot,” Robertson continued. “It is now our responsibility to take advantage of this opportunity and put our candidates in a position to win this November.”

Rep. Cunningham’s 1st Congressional District is comprised of four South Carolina counties: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester.

In Beaufort County, the turnout on Saturday was 81% higher than in 2016, and the trend continued across the congressional district, with 63% more voters turning out In Berkeley County, 58% more voting in Charleston County, and 62% more voting in Dorchester County.

Other notable increases in voter turnout occurred in Greenville County (72%), Horry County (80%), Lancaster County (75%) and York (86%).

Significantly, three of these counties — Greenville, Lancaster and York — are all in South Carolina’s Upstate region, long consider the state’s deeply red Republican stronghold.

Robertson said this is a sign “that several regions of the state have been written off as Republican territories for too long.”

While the number of voters increased this year — a byproduct of the state’s fast-rising population — the percentage of voters who participated on Saturday was lower than in 2008, as there are more registered voters now.

In 2008, 23% of the state’s 2.2 million voters turned out for the Democratic primary. In 2020, 16% of the state’s 3.3 million voters participated.

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