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Searching for polls or waiting in line. What primary day was like in the Midlands

From casting ballots outside to “passionate” voters inside, some people at the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday noted it had been the busiest they ever saw.

Before the race was called at 7:01 p.m. in former President Donald Trump’s favor, voters were not shy about who they voted for and why.

Cindy Rainey, a retired teacher and her husband, Harry, from Cottontown, said they came out to vote against Trump.

“We voted for Nikki Haley. She’s a better candidate. She’s younger, she’s sane. So, those things together, that’s pretty much it,” Cindy said.

Cindy said they also came to their Columbia precinct to vote against one of the ballot questions, specifically about declaring your party affiliation.

“We see that as a precursor to try to make closed primaries,” Cindy said. “I like open primaries.”

Nancy Pope, a retired educator, said she had previously voted for Democrats, but she voted for Haley this time.

“I didn’t see a need to vote in the Democratic primary because I figured that was a wasted vote for me,” Pope said. “I decided to vote in this primary so I could hopefully have an impact of keeping someone I’m vehemently against off the national ballot,” referring to Trump.

Pope said if President Joe Biden can’t win, she is better equipped to deal with Haley than Trump.

“We’ve dealt with Nikki,” Pope said. “So I can handle Nikki but if, if Biden doesn’t win, I feel like I can handle Nikki better than I can handle four more years of that.”

Travis Alexander, Richland County supervisor of elections, said some areas had lines with waits as long as 45 minutes to an hour. There was a poll worker mishap where about 120 votes were cast using emergency slots, but this was corrected after.

Any of the state’s 3.1 million registered voters who did not participate in the is eligible to cast a ballot in the GOP primary. Only 131,472 people voted in the non competitive primary won by Biden.

About 757,000, people voted in the GOP primary, a 23% turnout.

In Richland County, 58% of voters supported Haley while 41% picked Trump (18,959 to 13,605). Lexington County voters picked Trump by the same margin (58%-41%), with 27,459 ballots cast for the GOP front-runner to 19,452 for the former governor.

Confusion over poll locations in Lexington County

Andy Cress, who has been a poll worker since 2021, said it was the busiest he’d ever seen it. Until about 1 p.m. there had been a line outside the door of the Lexington Two Adult Education Center on Hook Road.

At another polling place, the Turner Memorial AME Church in West Columbia, there was a steady stream of voters. Around 2:30 a group of five seniors and a service dog stepped off of a bus from the Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community. It was the second bus from the West Columbia facility that day.

Normally the residents walk to their polling place at a nearby community center, The State was told, but due to consolidation that polling place was closed for the primary.

One voter said he was on his way to his third polling place, after finding his first shut and going to the wrong location on his second try.

“If that don’t work, I’m not going to vote,” he said getting into his car.

Cress said the confusion was normal during primaries. In the recent Democratic primary, a clerical error meant that incorrect information was posted to the state elections website.

For his part, Cress said that he had posted notices on the closed polling locations and he believed that people got where they needed to go. And as a poll worker, he feels grateful to be a part of the process. “We enjoy doing it,” Cress said. “We run into people we haven’t seen in a long time.”

John Michael Castalano, a spokesperson for the state election commission, said voting was steady all day. He heard that there had been some longer lines in Richland County, but overall the day went smoothly as far as wait times were concerned.

He also said he was told by county election directors and supervisors that some voters had been “passionate,” but nothing rose to a level of harassment or interfering with the election.

Booth brought outside to injured voter in Columbia

At Satchel Ford Elementary school, shortly after noon, the line to vote stretched down a hallway still hung with red Valentine’s Day hearts.

The morning started slow at the school in the leafy upper middle class suburb of Columbia, but the pace of voting has picked up throughout the day. “It’s been very busy,” said one poll worker. But the line moved smoothly, with voters only waiting about 15 minutes. “Not bad at all,” one voter could be heard to say.

Outside, polling officials brought a booth to Deseré Segal and Joshua Scharff, who were sitting on a bench, so they could vote outside. Scharff is recovering from a shattered pelvis and was unable to stand in the line.Scharff and Segal are transplants to Forest Acres. Scharff is from Maryland and Segal is originally from South Africa, but moved to the U.S. in 1981. Both are in their late 60s and are avid Trump voters. They said taxes and rising costs for necessities like gas and groceries are among their reasons for voting Trump.

They also cited the rumors of a Haley extra-marital affair and her husband’s business dealings as negatives in the former governor. Asked how they felt that many of those same charges were leveled against Trump, Segal was quick to clarify “those scandals were all political.”

“He’s got everyone against him,” Scharff said.