Why was Horry County voter turnout so low for South Carolina’s Democratic primary?

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County saw low voter turnout in South Carolina’s first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary on Saturday.

This comes after President Biden urged the Democratic National Committee to rearrange the 2024 primary calendar.

Biden said he wanted to reward South Carolina for having racially diverse electorate, but Saturday’s turnout was exceedingly low.

According to South Carolina’s Election Commission, only 4% of registered voters statewide voted on Saturday — 12% lower than 2020.

The director of Election and Registration for Horry County, Sandy Martin, agrees that this primary’s turnout was below past years.

Martin said the busiest precinct was in Conway with 117 voters. A precinct in Loris followed with 92 voters and a Myrtle Beach precinct with 85.

Associate professor of political science at Coastal Carolina University, Drew Kurlowski, said he’s not surprised by the turnout.

“You genuinely don’t see challenges to sitting presidents in primaries. So, you know, sometimes they’re not really contested. The party can declare a nominee, so the fact that he’s a sitting president and he doesn’t have serious challengers, it’s not surprising that turnout is not the same — especially because we’re comparing that turnout,” Kurlowski said.

He said broadly speaking, primary election turnout is lower compared to general election turnout.

Kurlowski added that this race is somewhat contested because Biden is an incumbent president. He said a race like this shouldn’t compare to years that were more competitive.

“Turnout in 2020 was just that much higher for Black voters, and now we’ve kind of come back down to normal in a regular election year with the competition,” he said. “So, it’s hard to know whether or not we’re down below where we should be or if we’ve come back down to where we should be.”

The Democratic candidates include current President Joe Biden, Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson.

A political science professor at Francis Marion University said he was “not at all” surprised by the voter turnout. David White said the number of voters on Saturday shouldn’t be something people read into.

He said just because some didn’t vote this past weekend doesn’t mean they won’t vote in November.

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Jackie LiBrizzi is a multimedia journalist at News13. Jackie is originally from Hamilton, New Jersey, and was raised in Piedmont, South Carolina. Jackie joined the News13 team in June 2023 after she graduated as a student-athlete from the University of South Carolina in May 2023. Follow Jackie on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and read more of her work here.

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