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What voters need to know about participating in SC’s primary runoffs

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What voters need to know about participating in SC’s primary runoffs

Jun 13, 2024 | 4:37 pm ET
By Abraham Kenmore
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What to know for South Carolina’s primary runoffs later this month
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Poll workers arrange stickers to read "Thanks" at Stiles Point Elementary School on Election Day in on Nov. 3, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. (File/Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s primary elections are not over yet, with 13 Statehouse and congressional run-offs scheduled for June 25.

The runoffs will decide who wins contests in the 3rd Congressional District, seven seats in the state Senate — including one with runoffs for both parties — and four in the state House.

If you’re a registered voter in any of those districts, you can participate in the runoff regardless of whether you voted in the June 11 primary. But if you haven’t already registered to vote, it’s too late. That deadline was the same as for the primary, and it expired a month ago.

Just as in the primary, voters can cast a ballot by mail or early in person, but the window for both options is compressed.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. Friday. Early voting begins June 19 and runs through June 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Some counties may use different or fewer early voting locations, according to the state Election Commission. So, double check your options before you go, either on the state agency’s website or your county website.

For most Statehouse races, the ultimate winners are decided this month

On June 25, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Because voters in South Carolina do not register by party, they can vote in either. But voters who cast a ballot in the primary can’t vote in a different party’s run-off. In other words, if you voted in the Democratic primary, you can’t vote in a GOP runoff — and vice-versa.

Voters who did not vote in the primary can still vote in either party’s run-off.

For more information, visit the State Election Commission website.

Recounts coming

Two Statehouse races are also headed for an automatic recount. That’s mandatory in South Carolina whenever the difference between the two candidates’ vote count is less than 1 percentage point. But state election officials say the outcome is usually the same.

“It is very, very rare — very rare that a recount changes the result for any type of office,” said South Carolina Election Commission spokesman John Michael Catalano.

These mandatory recounts of ballots are tabulated the same way they are counted on election night, Catalano added.

Recounts include the Lowcountry race between incumbent state Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, and her challenger, freshman state Rep. Matt Leber, R-Johns Island.

According to unofficial results, Leber led by just 33 votes out of 7,845 cast.

Also, a race for an open seat in Greenville County to replace Rep. Ashley Trantham, R-Pelzer, saw retired pastor Chris Huff gather the most votes in a five-way GOP primary. But he didn’t reach the necessary threshold of 50%-plus-one-vote to win the contest outright.

And the difference between the next two candidates, Kerri Smith, a regional credit union president, and Allen Kellett, a farmer and former county Farm Bureau president, was just seven votes in the unofficial results. That triggered a recount for who will face Huff in the run-off.

As is typical with primary elections, turnout across the state was low Tuesday — 13.6% of registered voters cast a ballot, according to preliminary results. And turnout in runoffs is usually even less.

The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce and Better Ballot SC used the run-offs to call for South Carolina to implement instant run-offs, where voters could choose not only a single candidate but rank any candidate they wanted. They argued that the system, already used for overseas military voters registered in South Carolina, would save money and avoid the drop-off in participation.

“The taxpayers pay for two elections with very few voters participating in the second,” Frank Knapp Jr., president of the Small Business Chamber said in a statement. “The result is higher costs and a winning candidate who very few people voted for.”

Races in a runoff

  • U.S. House 3rd District
    • Republican — Sheri Biggs and Mark Burns
  • State Senate 6 (Greenville)
    • Republican — State Rep. Jason Elliot and Ben Carper
  • State Senate 10 (Greenwood, Saluda, Lexington counties)
    • Republican — State Sen. Billy Garrett (incumbent) and Charles Bumgardner
  • State Senate 12 (Greenville and Spartanburg)
    • Republican — Former state Sen. Lee Bright and state Rep. Roger Nutt
  • State Senate 22 (Richland)
    • Democratic — State Rep. Ivory Thigpen and Richland County councilman Overture Walker
  • State Senate 23 (Lexington)
    • Republican — State Sen. Katrina Shealy (incumbent) and Carlisle Kennedy
  • State Senate 26 (Calhoun, Lexington, Richland)
    • Republican — Chris Smith and Jason Guerry
  • State Senate 35 (Richland, Kershaw, Lee, Sumter)
    • Democratic — City Councilor Jeffrey Graham and Austin Floyd, Jr.
    • Republican — Mike Jones and Richland District 2 School Board member Lindsay Agostini
  • State House 9 (Anderson)
    • Republican — Former West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders and James Galyean
  • State House 28 (Greenville)
    • Republican — Chris Huff and Kerri Smith or Allen Kellett (recount)
  • State House 34 (Spartanburg)
    • Republican — Sarita Edgerton and JoAnne LaBounty
  • State House 93 (Calhoun, Orangeburg, Lexington)
    • Democratic — Former state Rep. Jerry Govan and Johnny Felder