S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.1112.turnout.htm

South Carolina voters not as enthused at polls
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 12, 2006 - - For all of those news stories about how voter turnout was strong in Tuesday's statewide elections, here's a rude awakening: It just didn't happen.

Voter turnout was much less than projected. As many as 200,000 expected voters didn't show up at the polls, according to an analysis of past trends.

Presbyterian College political scientist Jon Smith projected 1.3 million voters to show up at the polls Tuesday. He based the calculation on the significant increase in voter registration over the last four years and because 54 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the last two mid-year elections.


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In 1998, just under 1.1 million people voted - - a 54. 3 percent turnout. Four years later, some 54.6 of registered voters (1.1 million) cast ballots. But on Tuesday, the expected 54 percent turnout was down to 44.3 percent. Some 1.08 million people - - less than in 1998 and 2002 - - cast ballots. So what happened?

  • Non-competitiveness. Many folks tired of the campaign season, which seemed particularly nasty and dull at the same time. At the top of the ticket, Gov. Mark Sanford had a significant financial advantage, which tended to sap the sense that Democratic Sen. Tommy Moore had a real shot at winning.

  • Weather. Rain poured intermittently throughout the state on election day. Many voters with dampened spirits just decided to stay at home.

  • Low national interest. Like in 1994, there was no U.S. Senate candidate at the top of the ticket to really nationalize the election. But unlike the hotly contested congressional races in South Carolina a dozen years ago, only the John Spratt-Ralph Norman contest in the Rock Hill and Pee Dee areas provided an opportunity for the national political drama to rear its head.

  • Organization. There seemed to be fewer ground forces out on election day. Unlike years past, things like organized rides to the polls and phone banks weren't as visible, particularly among Democratic county parties.

  • Minority voting down. Smith noted minority voters didn't turn out in expected numbers in nine of 11 counties where they comprise the majority of registered voters. Minority voters generally underperformed in the "Corridor of Shame" counties - - Clarendon, Marlboro, Jasper, Hampton, Marion, Bamberg, Lee, Orangeburg and Williamsburg. Turnout was about what was expected in Allendale and Fairfield counties - - the two other counties where minority voters make up the majority of registered voters. These counties generally are considered a Democratic base. If Democrats want to win statewide, they're going to have to get out their base.

Other election thoughts:

  • Mandates. Sanford spoke Tuesday night about getting a mandate for change in his re-election. But is 55 percent a "mandate?" Most likely, it's just a healthy win. Almost half the voters still voted against his ideas. Had he reached landslide status of 60 percent, he might be able to call it a mandate.

  • Camaraderie. Legislative leaders and Sanford seemed on best of terms during interviews on election night. But Sanford, who has had a frosty relationship with his GOP-controlled legislature, will face a real test in January when the General Assembly convenes. Many believe the sour relationship with legislators will continue, particularly if he makes a power grab by using a newly-won control of the state Budget and Control Board to push changes lawmakers don't want.

  • Vouchers. Republicans almost got a sweep of constitutional offices. If Democrat Jim Rex is able to stay on top to squeak out victory to become state superintendent of education, he'll throw a big wrench into Sanfordian plans to push education vouchers on South Carolinians.

Tuesday's election was what some folks wanted while others didn't get their wishes. But if you were one of the millions who stayed home, you won't have much room to complain when the rascals do what they do.

Send your comments to Andy Brack at brack@statehousereport.com. His book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side
11/12: Donkey knows how it feels nationally

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

11/9: Discrimination costs

Here is a perfect example of why it was important for candidates to say these ten simple words during the election…“I support equal treatment under the law for all Americans.” That’s all they had to say…and yet most Democratic candidates in South Carolina didn’t have guts enough to say it.

Eugene Platt is now trailing Wallace Scarborough by 45 votes in this election. I found 57 gay and lesbian voters on James Island and Folly Beach in my contacts file who would have been glad to support Eugene Platt if he had just muttered those ten simple words. My guess is that they either wrote in other candidates or did not vote in his race since we were all aware that Mr. Platt publicly supported second class citizenship for LGBT people.

Discrimination costs everybody, some sooner than others.

-- Charlie Smith, Charleston, S.C.

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