A poster on the wall of Lexington 2’s Community Education Center on Election Day. (Photo by Jack Veltri)
What were voters thinking and what were poll workers dealing with around the Midlands on Election Day?
Here’s what our staffers found.
Chares Young, 32, said it is residents’ responsibility to vote. Young cast his ballot at Pelion 1’s Forts Pond Elementary School.
“I feel like voting is everyone’s civil duty, even in the midterms,” Young said. “I feel like you do get a lot more done on the local level.”
Travis Scott, 27, a voter at Pelion 2’s Pelion Elementary, shared the same belief.
“I am really just here to try and be more politically active,” Scott said.
Voting at Cayce Ward No. 3’s Cayce United Methodist Church was slow and steady in the morning.
About 20 people had voted by 7:35 a.m., said poll manager Julie Isom.
“A good turnout this morning early,” she said. “There was a line to come in, which is good. We hope they come, come, come and hopefully people have early voted as well. So far, so good. It’s been very steady.”
Tuesday was Chrystal Gibson’s first time voting at in Cayce Ward No. 1’s American Legion Memorial Post 130.
She said it was “just my duty” to vote and that the process was easy when she voted at 8:18 a.m.
Gibson said there weren’t hot button issues she was focusing on during her time voting, rather she was just grateful to vote because it “controls what happens in the future.”
Enjoli McDride, 37, accompanied her mother to vote at the post. While she didn’t vote at this specific location, she said voting was important to her.
“I vote because my ancestors fought for the right,” McDride said. “So it’s my duty as a citizen to go vote, so that’s why I did it.”
She said she specifically wanted to see changes in the governor’s and education superintendent’s offices.
Michael Ajqui, 23, wasn’t sure if he’d make it to the polls at the post but did.
“I voted just to be (a) representative for the Hispanic community,” Ajqui said. “And … it’s my right, so (I) might as well.”
In Richland County, there was no lunchtime rush at Satchel Ford Elementary School.
Antonnia Brisby, the poll manager at the Satchel Ford precinct, said a total of 379 people had voted just before noon.
Brisby also said the location hadn’t had any type of problems up to that point and that things were running good.
Will Stork, 39, voted at Satchel Ford at 11:58 a.m. and was surprised by how fast it went.
“All the volunteers did a really good job and it was really efficient,” Stork said.
The gubernatorial race grabbed Stork’s attention. Other than that, he said it was important to vote in local elections that are typically decided at the midterms.
“Local elections are almost even more important than presidential elections and federal elections are, because I think it affects our day to day lives more,” Stork said.
Kathleen Randall, 62, voted at Satchel Ford around 12:15 p.m.
Randall said she thinks voting is important and is critical to the fabric and foundation of America.
“It’s our duty as American citizens to vote in our electoral process, to vote in the political process,” Randall said. “And if you are concerned about anything that’s happening in our country, well, the biggest power that we have is to vote.”
She said the Richland School District 1 board races was one reason why she came out to vote.
“I did not agree with one of the school boards voting themselves a huge raise,” Randall said. “And I didn’t think that was in the best interest of the community. So that particular race interested me greatly.”
Poll managers at Edenwood’s polling location at Broadacres Baptist Church in Lexington County said they had had a heavy voter turnout.
Lucien LaPierre, 34, said he came out to vote at Edenwood to contribute to democracy. He didn’t have any specific issues that he was necessarily paying extra attention to on this year’s ballot.
“I’m just kind of looking at some of the candidates for a good mixture of some progressive but also conservative ideas that are kind of more indicative of, I think the younger generation coming up in South Carolina,” LaPierre said.
LaPierre did not agree with the proposed penny tax that was on the ballot.
“I think the focus should be more on cutting wasteful spending than necessarily adding tax,” LaPierre said. “So more interested in seeing people go back and see where we’re wasting money than putting more taxes on people.”
Karen Watts, 50, said she came out to vote at Edenwood because she doesn’t like the state of the economy right now.
Despite this, she said that one issue that stuck out the most for her was the state superintendent race.
“I have a lot of teacher friends and that has been a big issue for them,” Watts said. “So even though I voted Republican, I did vote for Lisa Ellis who is a Democrat.”
Watts said she has always had a smooth experience at Broadacres Baptist, and this time was no different.
Erin Parady said 346 citizens had cast their votes at Cacye Ward No. 2’s polling station at Edwards Memorial Presbyterian Church at 4:18 p.m.
Parady said that proceedings were generally smooth, but that there were a few bumps in the road. One ballot processor was out of order for about 30 minutes, but it was troubleshooted and fixed.
The ballot processor was malfunctioning when people selected the option to vote straight ticket and then attempted to go back and vote for a candidate that was not a member of that party. Parady said it was like the machine was “eating up” the ballot.
The issue only affected one person, and that person was still able to properly cast a ballot.
Hudie Evans has volunteered at the Ward 2’s Main Street United Methodist Church in downtown Columbia for “many years,” he said.
Evans said the morning had a slower start than the ones in recent years. In the half hour between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m, 11 people cast ballots.
Lola Renauer, 25, voted at Ward 30’s Arsenal Hill Park.
This isn’t the first election Renauer has voted in. She used to live in Maryland, and she voted there until she came to South Carolina for school. But Renauer said she wanted to vote Tuesday at Arsenal Hill Park at 9:45 a.m. because of what she’s studying, specifically.
“I’m in the environmental health, marine science sector,” she said. “So I think a change needed to happen. And I also voted today because of everything that’s been happening with women’s rights.”
Spencer Seifert, 25, voted on Tuesday because USC gave him the day off to do it.
“I just wanted to participate in the process and get out there and exercise my right to vote,” Seifert said. “I think every vote matters.”
Chris Garvey, 43, voted at Ward 4’s Logan Elementary School on Elmwood Avenue.
Garvey said he only started voting in the past few years and voted Tuesday for his 8-year-old daughter.
“Women’s rights was one of many reasons why I voted today,” Garvey said.
Garvey said voting “helps people have a voice, and we can help people who might not have a voice or be able to express their needs.”
Ryan Stokes, 42, voted at Logan, too, saying he was doing his civic duty and wanted to vote against the Republican Party.
“I feel like there’s been so much irresponsible behavior under the whole party’s behalf that they should be condemning it and changing it on behalf of our democracy,” Stokes said. “Democracy is pretty cool.”
Clerk Jerry White said this was his first year working at Columbia’s Ward 3, which voted at Reformation Lutheran Church. But even before noon and the lunch rush hit, White said he heard this is the biggest turnout the polling location has had in recent years.
“Typically, it’s 5 to 10% for the whole day, so this has been pretty good so far,” White said.
Sandra Kidwell, 76, said she’s been voting at Reformation Lutheran for 16 years.
Kidwell said she voted specifically for issues like inflation and crime.
“Our world’s a mess, and I’m trying to help change it,” Kidwell said. “I just hope the best man for our country wins and he can help change a lot of things.”
Chase Hastings, 24, said he voted because he’s “tired of Henry McMaster, especially because of his recent LGBT comments at the last debate that you would think was from the ‘60s,” Hastings said. “But no, he’s fully saying these things nowadays.”
Abigail Starega, 22, voted at Columbia’s Ward 5, at Pacific Memorial Park.
She said wanted to “make sure that people in my community are able to stay safe.”
Starega said the community she’s representing with her vote today are women, the LGBTQIA+ community and “everyone that’s really just facing really such hard times right now.”
Marcus Gladney, 38, voted at St. Andrews Middle School, in the St. Andrews precinct.
He said he usually volunteers at the polling place but decided not to this year. He voted because it’s his duty, Gladney said.
“If you don’t vote, or even if you do vote, it still makes a difference,” he said.
Tim Barnett, 61, voted at the Riverside precinct, also at St. Andrews Middle.
“It’s essential to vote no matter what,” so we have a say in politics, he said. “You can’t grumble about what’s going on if you didn’t vote.”
Breeanna Clark, 20, voted at the Hook’s Store’s precinct, in the Lexington Two Community Education Center. She thinks young people need to get more involved in their country.
“If you’re deciding not to vote, you’re risking your country to people that don’t really care and don’t really know what’s really going on,”Clark said.
Sarah Counts said she thinks the midterm election is just as important as the presidential election.
“I think it’s best to actually vote within your community because the president doesn’t control everything,” Counts said. “That’s just dumb to be like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to vote for the president and nobody else.’”
Savannah Pittman, 22, voted at the Leaphart Road precinct’s Pineview Baptist Church.
Pittman, who is a first-year teacher at Wood Elementary School, came out to vote for the next superintendent of education. She said she wants someone in the position that can relate to teachers.
“People that have experience in the classroom and see what goes on day to day, I think is important,” Pittman said.
The voting machines weren’t working at Gray Collegiate Academy in the Mt. Hebron precinct at 7 a.m. But as voters were welcomed in, one of the machines started running as normal, said Irene Ward, a Mt. Hebron clerk.
Sharen Warren, 57, voted at Gray Collegiate. She said she felt an urgency this year and hopes the votes cast will create some change in Washington, D.C.
“I’d like to see all the seats changed and more common sense in Washington and here in our state,” Warren said.
Michelle Haga, 49, went to work at 5 a.m., then drove straight to vote at Pineview’s New Heritage Church after she got off at 2 p.m.
Haga said there are too many important issues and problems for people not to vote.
“This is how we let our representatives know how we feel about what they’re doing,” she said.
Jeremy Epperson, 40, also cast his ballot at New Heritage Church.
He wants to help make a change in his community. He said the people need to put their differences aside and “get back to America.”
“I wish everybody could come united, no matter what side of the political party you’re on,” he said.
Molly Rowe, 61, hurried home to Lexington to vote after visiting friends in Mississippi. She made it to Saluda River Baptist Church in Quail Hollow to vote just before the after-work crowd arrived, which she said was her plan.
Rich Austin, 54, also voted at Saluda River Baptist. He said he feels more at ease when he votes in person and would rather not mail in an absentee ballot.
“I feel that I’ve done my duty,” Austin said.
Johnie Smith, 70, said it’s the state of the country that brought her out to vote today at Pennington 1’s Kings Grant Club House.
“We’re in deep, deep trouble here economically,” Smith said. ” I think some very bad decisions have been made.”
Nick Callas’ reason for voting was simple — “preserving democracy,” the 45 year old said.
Election worker Jacqueline Jackson knows the Pennington precinct well and said the turnout was already quite high. Within the first hour of polls being open she said 94 people had voted so far.
“I expect to see a turnout of maybe even 80%,” Jackson said.
Jasmine Doxie, 31, voted at Brandon 2’s Library Southeast.
She said her main reason to vote was bodily autonomy.
“I want to make sure that my bodily autonomy in theirs is always protected,” Doxie said.
Heather Hansberry, 37, voted at the Southeast Library. She is a school teacher, so the most important issue for her this election is the race for superintendent of education.
“(Lisa Ellis) knows the day to day of a teacher,” Hansberry said. “And I feel like it’s really important that she has that experience.”
She said she hopes Ellis addresses the teacher shortage and teacher salaries.
Precinct Brandon 1, which is at Annie Burnside Elementary, was busier than usual. Some 249 of 2187 registered voters had already cast their ballot as of 11:45 a.m.
Gloria Young, 60, who also voted at Annie Burnside, said biggest issues she’s concerned about are domestic terrorism and women’s rights.
“That’s one of my main focuses, because I have three daughters and two granddaughters,” Young said.
Robert Ormsby, 56, also cast his ballot at Annie Burnside.
“This administration right now is tearing us all apart,” Ormsby said.
Laura Holladay, 42, voted at the Lykesland precinct, at Caughman Road Elementary, to vote for school superintendent.
“I’m a school librarian, and one of the hot-button topics is the issue of parents coming in and being upset about content in books,” Holladay said. “(Lisa Ellis) wants to trust schools and libraries to make those decisions.”
Muskann Muhta, a pre-med biology student at USC, brought her 12-year-old sister with her to vote at the Dutch Fork 3’s River Springs Church.
“She actually just said, ‘In six years, it’ll be my turn,’” Muhta said.
Muhta said she also tries to involve her parents.
“Midterm elections are important, too. That’s something that I struggle to explain to my parents,” she said.
Tina Tanner, 62, also voted at the church. She said she votes at every election, local or national.
“I vote every time you have to vote, because I need to vote. I need to vote to make changes,” Tanner said.
Laurianne Cayel, 29, was at the Ballentine 2 precinct’s Ballentine Community Center. She said she wanted to put people in office that would protect basic human rights.
“A lot of the amendments federally are impacted by the states now, so I just want to make sure as a female, I’m protected, and I want to make sure human beings are protected,” Cayel said. “I think it’s important to vote to have people in office that will protect basic human rights.”
Nikki Brown, 47, voted at the Ballentine Community Center alongside her 20-year-old daughter, Riley Brown.
“I think that Joe Cunningham is a lot better than Henry McMaster, because Henry McMaster is ‘the old world,’” Riley Brown said.
Nikki Brown said her motivation to vote was her daughter.
“I show up to vote so that she has a decision to make in her life,” Nikki said.
Doreen Hines, a 65-year-old retired insurance underwriter, voted at Amicks Ferry’s Piney Woods Elementary.
Hines said she voted because she thinks the United States has changed and that people need to vote to support their beliefs.
“A lot of people have been asleep and don’t realize how things have changed over the decades,” Hines said. “So it’s important to go out and vote and support your beliefs and keep America a strong country, a free country.”
This is Amicks Ferry poll clerk Stacey Faile’s first year working the precinct. She said a line had formed even before the doors opened.
“Voter turnout has been great,” Faile said at 10:25 a.m. “Right now, it’s an hour wait.”
Haley Goralczyk, 37, voted at Dreher Island’s St. Peter Lutheran Church. She wanted to be heard and wants a better country for her children.
Kevin Finny, 43, also voted at St. Peter’s.
“It’s your opportunity to voice your opinion,” Finny said.
Phyllis Shealy, 74, voted in the Chapin precinct, at Chapin Town Hall NW.
Shealy said she voted because she feels like she needs to make a difference.
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” Shealy said.
Emily Liles, 81, voted at Old Lexington’s Chapin Elementary School.
“I think we need to get the people that are in there, out,” said Liles, who said she thinks it’s important for every citizen to vote.
There was little to no line at Chapin Elementary, so voters were about to get in and out in about 10 minutes.
At the Dutchman Shores at Crossroads Fire Station, Poll Manager Lisa Baghdady said the turnout kept the workers busy all day — busier than she had seen it since 2000.
Elizabeth Teal, 48, was interested in “making some change.”
Charles Hine, 70, was interested in specific issues — and change.
“I think it’s a privilege to vote,” Hine said. “I try to take advantage of it all the time.”
Stephanie Liscusky, 51 and a West Columbia native who works at a hair salon, voted at the West Columbia No. 3’s West Columbia Community Center.
She said her voting experience was “easy as pie,” and came out to vote for Lexington School District Two candidates.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and most of our community feels that way,” she said.
Eddie Stroud, 61 and a videographer with Access Multimedia, also voted at West Columbia Community Center.
He said he is concerned for the economy.
“If the price of gas comes back down, everything else will come back down,” Stroud said.
Maria Haose Paton, 28, voted at West Columbia No. 1’s Brookland United Methodist Church.
Protecting environmental justice, social justice and reproductive rights were at the forefront of her motivations.
“I really value local elections because I feel like my voice has a bigger impact with local versus federal elections,” Paton said.
Kelly Gainey, a 45-year-old safety coordinator, voted at Saluda River’s Our Savior Lutheran Church.
Gainey is most concerned about inflation.
“I voted to change this system,” Gainey said. “To change the way I feel, change the way the country is going. I’m just not a big fan.”
“AJ” Johnson, a 35-year-old working in sales said infrastructure and healthcare are most important to him.
“I’ve lived in a lot of states,” Johnson said. “South Carolina has to have the worst roads out of anywhere in the entire nation.”
Minnie Davis, 85, voted at West Columbia No. 2’s Turner Memorial AME Church.
Davis wasn’t voting based on a specific issue, but said voting is important.
Katie Rojas is a 18-year-old first time voter who was excited to cast her ballot at West Columbia No. 4’s Tri-City Leisure Center.
“I feel like I’ve made the right decision(s),” Rojas said.
Tara Coolidge, 41, also voted at the leisure center.
“My main reason was to vote for Cunningham, that was all,” Coolidge said.
Barbara Murray, 80, has worked the polls for nearly 40 years. This year she worked the polls at St. Andrews Park in the Beatty Road precinct.
“We’re doing something to help people, and it’s always been enjoyable,” Murray said.
But for Shirley Barnett, 65, also at St. Andrews Park, it’s her first year working.
“I feel like it’s my duty as a citizen of the United States to do this,” Barnett said. “I enjoy working with the people I work with.”
Takiya Smith, 25, who voted at the park, said she wanted to vote because it’s her right.
“I just know I needed to vote,” Smith said. “Because we have the right to vote, I think everybody should just get out there.”
Jamie O’Leary, 40, said he came out to “try and do something.”
“Nothing in this state ever changes,” O’Leary said. “Just trying to get these people out of office. Nobody ever runs against them.”
O’Leary expressed his frustration with South Carolina’s candidates — or lack thereof.
“Nobody ran against Alan Wilson,” O’Leary said. “He’s just doing that whole performative, going out to lunch with Kyle Rittenhouse, … for like the far, far right. He’s not actually interested in helping to govern. But then nobody runs against him.”
O’Leary said these problems make him excited to leave the state.
“This state’s just backwards,” O’Leary said. “I’m so tired of it. … People claim they want change, but nobody actually does anything about it.”
After becoming a U.S. citizen, Aye Kay, 39, votes every year. He said there were no voting issues when he voted this year at Pine Grove Elementary School in the Pine Grove precinct.
“(It was) very easy,” Kay said.
Cassandra Legette, 42, brought her friend’s daughter with her to vote at Pine Grove.
“People have died for the right to vote,” Legette said.
Legette said people will complain about what’s going on, but there is a simple solution to their problems.
“Get out and vote,” Legette said.
Jennifer Edwards, 50, is a lifelong resident of South Carolina. She voted at Harbison 2’s New Heights Baptist Church.
“I think South Carolina needs a change,” Edwards said. “We have had some of the same people in office for years, and it still seems like South Carolina is not moving anywhere.”
Edwards said she has voted in every election since she was old enough to vote.
“It seems like the people that (are) in office, education is not at the forefront of their minds,”Edwards said. “I really think South Carolina needs to be further than where they are in education.”
Heyward Stuckey, 75, said a lot of issues brought him to the polls at New Heights, though he didn’t want to share which ones.
“I think you need a strong, two-party system in this state,” Stuckey said. “We’re becoming a one-party state, and I don’t think that’s good. You need one to keep the other honest.”
Raven Johnson, 43 and voting at the Westminster precinct at Westminster Presbyterian Church, said he wanted to make a long overdue difference.
“There should’ve been that change 10 (or) 15 years ago,” Johnson said.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Bozard is a senior journalism student at the University of South Carolina and is a news editor at the student-run Daily Gamecock. He has covered topics such as university politics and social issues. He investigated anti-Asian and Asian American racism on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic and covered leaked, racially charged and homphobic student government communications. He recently interned for the Orangeburg Times and Democrat and is a first generation college student from Barnwell, S.C.
Goulet is a senior journalism major, minoring in political science, at the University of South Carolina. She is an opinion writer for the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock. She was promoted to an opinion beat writer covering university politics. As the current opinion editor she covers topics from state elections to abortion rights. Goulet is a self-published author and has read 185 books (and counting) since January 2021.