What you need to know about the South Carolina Democratic primary

While I’m a conservative Republican, I still represent several who have differing opinions. I wanted to share this article for those constituents who may be voting this Saturday in the SC Democratic Primary.

Republicans and Democrats in our state have been pretty good predictors for their party’s eventual nominee in past years, so the eyes of the nation will be on another “First in the South” event!

To read entire article from CBS News, click here.

On February 29, South Carolina Democrats and voters nationwide will have their first opportunity to see how candidates perform in a state whose Democratic electorate is expected to be mostly African-American. Sixty percent of the turnout here is expected to comprise black voters.

Two months into 2020, after three states have weighed in, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Bernie Sanders has emerged as the front-runner, winning both Nevada and New Hampshire, and garnering the greatest number of votes in Iowa (though he came in slightly behind Pete Buttigieg in delegates).

The Nevada caucuses were the first test of candidate’s appeal to minority voters, given its substantial Hispanic population. Sanders was the most popular candidate among Hispanic voters, CBS News entrance polls showed. In South Carolina, up to this point, Joe Biden has been leading, though his margins have been shrinking. A CBS News poll released Sunday shows Biden ahead of Sanders by just 5 points, a dramatic drop from the double-digit lead he held before the voting in other states began.

The candidates will also have one more opportunity to debate each other before the primary Saturday and Super Tuesday. The debate on Tuesday in Charleston will be co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

Here’s an overview of the history of the state’s primary, the campaigns and why it matters:

The history of the “first in the South” primary

South Carolina officially became an early state in the Democratic primary lineup in 2008, but the state had claimed the first-in-the-South mantle in 1980, when the state’s Republican Party held its first presidential primary, which also happened to be the first primary contest in the South.

The state Democratic Party didn’t hold its first presidential primary until 1992. Since then, it has held primary contests in 2004, 2008, and 2016. In three of those four primary contests, the winner went on to become the Democratic nominee. Before 2008, primaries were run by the state’s political parties, but they’re now administered by the South Carolina Election Commission and county boards.

South Carolina’s open primary

South Carolina doesn’t have registration by party and the state’s primaries are open, which means all registered South Carolina voters can participate in either party’s primary regardless of political affiliation. This year, the Republican Party will not hold a primary. The GOP also didn’t hold primaries in 1984 or 2004 when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively, were incumbents. As a result, Republicans can vote in the upcoming Democratic primary.

Fourteen candidates will be on the ballot, though half have withdrawn from the race. Votes cast for candidates who have ended their bids will still be counted and reported in the election results. Notably absent from the ballot is billionaire Michael Bloomberg and because the state’s primary rules don’t permit write-ins, he won’t receive any votes in the contest.

Seven Democratic candidates will be competing for 54 of the state’s 63 delegates that will go to the National Democratic Convention. The other nine automatic delegates — also known as super delegates — are unpledged and will be a combination of the state’s Democratic members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee. They are only able to vote on the second round at the nominating convention if there’s no consensus after the first round.

Candidates who meet a mandatory 15% threshold at the congressional district or statewide levels, will split the 54 delegates based on their percentage of the statewide primary vote.

The South Carolina Election Commission has implemented a new ballot-marking system — ExpressVote — in all elections since October 1, 2019. Voters insert a blank ballot into the system and make selections on a touchscreen. After completing, reviewing, and printing the ballot, voters cast their vote in a ballot scanner.

South Carolina does not have early voting, but it does allow absentee voting by mail or in person. As of Friday, records show that voters have returned almost two-thirds of the nearly 30,000 absentee ballots that were issued.

In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, voter turnout was just over half of what it was in 2008 with only 12.52% of registered voters casting their ballots. South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson said he hopes to see 300,000 to 500,000 votes cast.

“You’re gonna see turnout based on the engagement of all of these field organizations that have been put on the ground by the respective campaigns,” said Robertson. “They’re going to drive turnout along with the fact that people are tired of Donald Trump and they want to see change.

To read more, click here.