Biden expected to take S.C. Democratic presidential primary with polls open

President Joe Biden addresses churchgoers at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on January 8. Biden is one of three candidates appearing on the ballot for the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
President Joe Biden addresses churchgoers at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on January 8. Biden is one of three candidates appearing on the ballot for the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
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Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Polls in South Carolina opened early Saturday morning for the Democratic presidential primary, the party's first 2024 election, which President Joe Biden is expected to win handily.

South Carolina is the first-in-the-nation primary for Democrats for the first time after the Democratic National Committee shuffled its calendar last year.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. ET, and close 12 at 7 p.m. tonight. Early voting opened Friday.

Biden is widely considered the favorite to come away with the victory.

South Carolina's Republican primary is scheduled for Feb. 24.

President Joe Biden smiles as he is applauded by Bishop Samuel L. Green Sr. during his address at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on January 8. Biden is one of three candidates appearing on the ballot for the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
President Joe Biden smiles as he is applauded by Bishop Samuel L. Green Sr. during his address at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on January 8. Biden is one of three candidates appearing on the ballot for the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI

The possibility exists that some Democratic voters will abstain from the ballot box Saturday, instead voting during the Republican event to support the state's former Gov. Nikki Haley in an effort to upset GOP frontrunner and former president Donald Trump.

South Carolina hosts open primaries, meaning voters can participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary. However, they are not allowed to vote in both. Voting in one of the primaries does not impact a voter's ability to participate in a different party's state primary that takes place in June.

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, greets voters during the New Hampshire Primary at a voting site at Windham High School on January 23. Photo by Amanda Sabga/UPI
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, greets voters during the New Hampshire Primary at a voting site at Windham High School on January 23. Photo by Amanda Sabga/UPI

Haley has taken aim at both Biden and Trump with a series of campaign ads released Saturday entitled "Grumpy Old Men Say What?" aiming to highlight the ages of both men.

There are 55 delegates at stake in South Carolina. Biden will appear on the ballot alongside Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and author Marianne Williamson. Delegates will be awarded based on the share of votes received by the candidates.

Author Marianne Williamson will be on the ballot for Saturday's South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. File Photo by John Nowak/CNN
Author Marianne Williamson will be on the ballot for Saturday's South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. File Photo by John Nowak/CNN

Phillips won a court battle Friday to be included on Wisconsin's Democratic primary ballot in April.

There are more than 4,000 delegates to be awarded throughout the country. A candidate must earn about 2,000 delegates to become the nominee.

In 2020, 539,263 votes were cast in the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina. Biden received 262,336 votes, more than 48%.

Voters delivered a victory for Biden in New Hampshire last month with a write-in campaign, but Saturday's primary will be the first to award delegates. The Democratic Party is not seating delegates for the New Hampshire primary because the state broke from the party's primary schedule, despite New Hampshire state law.

In 1975, the state legislature passed a measure that required New Hampshire to have its leadoff status written into state law.

Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally gone first and second.

Officials in New Hampshire are holding out hope that delegates will ultimately be seated, which has happened before when a state and party have had disagreements over the primary schedule.