South Carolina joined the number of states that have started early voting. Not only has it become important to the presidential race, but also crucial to downballot races as well. Of the state’s 3 million registered voters, more than 1 million are people of color. Inspired by Democratic senate challenger Jaime Harrison’s campaign, there has been a huge push to get them engaged.
Led by Black voters, the state bolstered Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in February with a primary victory. This win eventually propelled him to win the Democratic nomination. Now, Harrison’s campaign is riding on his virtual polling tie with incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham and is hoping to finish with a win of its own on Nov. 3.
“People are on fire about Jamie,” Christale Spain, the South Carolina Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign director told BET.com. “I’ve been with the party eight or nine years and I’ve never seen so much excitement.”
Harrison took on Graham in their only debate of the campaign on Saturday night. The two candidates clashed over national issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Harrison’s team notes that getting voters of color out to early voting is key to helping its strategic formula to victory.
“Right now we have over a million voters of color registered to vote,” Guy King, a spokesman for Harrison’s campaign told BET.com last week. “Our movement has been targeted on those voters and all South Carolinians.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released Sept. 30 shows Harrison in a dead heat with Graham, 48-48 percent.
It remains to be seen how that race will turn out, but the early voting had people standing in long lines to cast their votes in several polling places around the state.
Lenora Croft, an early voter in Greenville, S.C., told local station WSPA that she came to cast her ballot at 6:30 a.m. and waited two hours before polling started. Safety, particularly surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, was her concern.
“My mother is 88 and my sister and I have ailments,” Croft said. “We don’t want to do mail-in voting because we don’t trust that too tough and this COVID has turned voting upside down.”
Conway Belangia, Greenville County’s Elections Director, told reporters that state elections officials are in “uncharted territory” this time because of the circumstances.
“The legislature has given us a little bit of extra time to open up our envelopes,” he said. “That’ll give us a fighting chance come election day. We’ll have our absentee votes counted by sometime election night.”