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Will Voters Turn Out in 'Rare' Primary?

With no 'big ticket' offices up for grabs in the state, will voters stay at home for Tuesday's Republican primary? Dorchester County elections officials says turnout may drop slightly.

The lower-end of Dorchester County is facing more Republican primary election battles than most of the Lowcountry. Five elections are up for grabs, including two state legislative seats and sheriff. 

But how many voters will turnout in a county that usually sees at least one-fifth of registered voters pulling levers during primary elections with no U.S. House, U.S. Senate, or governor seats up for grabs? 

According to Dorchester County Board of Elections and Voter Registration Director Joshua Dickard, a primary election missing big ticket offices is akin to a blue moon — except blue moons seem to happen with greater frequency. He said in data going back to 1996, he couldn't find a similar election.

"We have had a Congressional race in every June Primary (either Republican or Democratic) since then," Dickard said. "This is a rare occasion." 

It's also a rare event because there is no corresponding Democratic primary.

Dorchester County has a history of beating the statewide voter turnout average. For example, in 2008, when 20.33 percent of registered voters came turned out statewide, 24.74 percent of Dorchester County registered voters made it to the voting booth. Voter turnout in the county was higher in that primary than 2008's Republican presidential primary, which only brought out 20.9 percent of registered voters, possibly because of the Democratic presidential primary.

In this year's Republican presidential primary, 21.69 percent of Dorchester County registered voters voted.

A meager 17.6 percent of registered voters made it to the polls for statewide primaries in 2006 and 18.7 percent voted in the statewide primaries in 2000. The 2006 statewide primary featured a gubernatorial race, Congressional and U.S. Senate seats. The 2000 statewide featured Congressional seats on the ballot.

For this election, there are 80,485 registered voters here — more voters than ever are registered in Dorchester County.

"It will affect the overall turnout slightly, but it shouldn’t lower it too much. We never underestimate voter turnout so we will have plenty of workers and voting equipment at each polling location," Dickard wrote in an e-mail to Patch.

Every Vote Counts

In the 2008 primary, Mike Rose won against his opponent Randy Scott by just 525 votes to win the S.C. Senate District 38 seat. This year, Rose faces challenger Sean Bennett. 

Dorchester County Sheriff was determined by 1,014 votes in favor of L.C. Knight in 2008. Knight now faces a challenge by Mike Turner. 

Slim margins also help determine Dorchester County Council seats, where instead of 12,000-plus voting, only about 3,000 voted in the 2008 election for District 6. Councilman Bill Hearn against opponent Fred Luxmore by 713 votes. Hearn also faces a challenger again this year — Roger Goodman.

In 2000, Dorchester County District 6 seat received 1,477 votes between two candidates, with the Republcian nomination going to Randy Scott with 78.47 percent of the vote.

In the 2000, Republican primary for S.C. House District 97, only 2,337 voted. The nomination was won by 1,146 votes for David Owens. 

A runoff is always possible when candidates win by slim margins. Dickard said if neither candidate nabs more than 50 percent of the vote, Dorchester County could see run-off elections June 26.

To vote in Tuesday's primary, voters will need the same items they needed in GOP presidential primary: their voter registration cards, or a state-issued identification.

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