Today is Election Day, but more than 375,000 South Carolinians already have voted absentee -- the most ever in state history.
State election officials say that points to a record turnout at the polls today, fueled by a too-close-too-call presidential election nationally and an unusual slate of local elections, including hundreds of petition candidates. In addition, S.C. voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to allow the governor and lieutenant governor to be elected on the same ticket as the president and vice president are nationally.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To vote, you will need one of three things: an S.C. driver's license, voter registration card or an ID issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.
"(Voters should) be prepared by bringing ... a tablet, a reader, a game -- something to occupy their time," said Garry Baum, deputy director of Richland County Elections and Voter Registration. "If you can, vote between 10 a.m. and noon or 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. when there may not be as many people at the polls."
Richland County had more than 35,000 people vote absentee by 3 p.m. Monday -- nearly 4,000 more than voted absentee four years ago.
Meanwhile, a line of voters nearly wrapped around the Richland County administration building -- including Debbie Gibbs, who was on her way out of town but turned around to vote.
"I started feeling a little un-American for not voting," she said after waiting more than an hour in line to vote absentee. "Plus, my whole family would probably disown me if I didn't vote. People spent a lot of years trying to get to vote so I shouldn't take it lightly."
Just in front of Gibbs, Karen Starr was in line with her 18-year-old son, Brandon, who was listening to rapper Eminem while waiting to vote for the first time.
"It's exciting," Karen Starr said. "I remember my first time voting, and I'm glad I am here to share the experience with my son."
In Lexington County, nearly more than 18,000 people had voted absentee by 4:15 p.m. -- about 1,000 more than had voted absentee in 2008. Interest was so strong that phone lines at the Lexington County Commission of Registration and Elections were tied up most of the day.
"We'll probably have about 120,000 or 125,000 turn out tomorrow," said Dean Crepes, Lexington County elections director, who noted the county had 110,000 voters four years ago.
More than 166,000 people voted in Richland County in 2008. Statewide, 1.9 million South Carolinians voted in the 2008 presidential race. Republican John McCain carried the state then, defeating Democrat Barack Obama, who won the presidency.
This year, polls show Republican nominee Mitt Romney defeating Obama, who is seeking re-election, in South Carolina.
South Carolina last voted for a Democrat for president in 1976.
(c)2012 The State (Columbia, S.C.)