What you need to know to vote in presidential primaries

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By The Staff

The election season is cranking up.

Lancaster County voters will have a chance to cast a ballot in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primaries in the state on Jan. 19 and Jan. 26, respectively.

Saturday voting

The two presidential primaries are being held on Saturdays.

Voting for the Republican presidential primary will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 19.

The Democratic primary will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 26.

In South Carolina, residents don't register by political party. But you may vote in only one party's presidential primary.

There are many Republicans and Democrats in the race. The names of some presidential candidates who've already dropped out of the race will still appear on the ballot.

The Republicans on the ballot are: Hugh Cort, John Cox, Cap Fendig, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson.

The Democrats you'll see on your ballot are: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich andBarack Obama.

What you need to cast a vote

Bring a valid S.C. driver's license, a photo identification card issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles or your voter registration card to vote. School IDs or Social Security cards are not valid forms of identification.

You must be registered to vote in Lancaster County to take part in either presidential primary. If you haven't already registered, it's too late to register now to participate in either presidential primary. Those registration deadlines were in December.

Cast a vote now

If you're over 65 or will be unable to vote the day of the primaries, you may vote absentee now. Voters who will be out of the county on the day of the primary may also cast an absentee ballot.

Call the county Voter Registration office at 285-2969 so the office can mail a ballot to you now. Or go to the office at the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., to cast an absentee ballot.

"We have had over two hundred absentee applications," said Lancaster County election official Cassie Stump. "That's for both primaries, and that's surprised me."

What will the turnout be?

The state is saying the county should expect half of its voters on each primary day, Stump said.

"But the would mean 19,000 - on the 19th and then again on the 26th, and we know that won't happen," she said.

History says turnout for both primaries will be low."

For example, in 2004, the county had almost 30,000 registered voters. In the Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, 2004, 3,895 voted. That's only about 12 percent of the total registered.

"I think the biggest determining factor will be the weather. It always is," Stump said. "I still think Saturday is going to decrease the turnout instead of increasing it. People think you are supposed to vote on Tuesdays."

Some polling places consolidated

You may be one of the Lancaster County residents who won't vote in your usual polling place for the primaries. The county combined several precincts because it did not get enough money from the state to open all precincts.

The polling places that have been combined and where you'll vote are:

- Antioch and Hyde Park - Hyde Park Baptist Church, 1898 Flat Creek Road

- Belair and Belair II - Indian Land Recreation Center, 8286 Charlotte Highway, Indian Land

- Camp Creek, Dwight and Springhill - Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1841 N. Rocky River Road

- Carmel and Douglas - Douglas Presbyterian Church, 2325 Sunday Place

- Chesterfield Avenue, Lancaster East and Lancaster West - Eastside Academy, 610 E. Meeting St.

- Heath Springs, Pleasant Hill and Rich Hill - Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire Department, 4535 Kershaw Camden Highway

- Kershaw North and Kershaw South - Kershaw First Baptist Church, 210 N. Matson St., Kershaw

- Jacksonham and Unity - Mount Tabor AME Zion Church, 590 Shiloh Unity Road

The changes are for the presidential primaries only. The other polling places have not changed. For details, call the Lancaster County Voter Registration office at 285-2969.

Polls that won't be consolidated are:

- Elgin - St. Luke United United Methodist Church Leisure Center, 128 Providence Road, Lancaster

- Erwin Farm - Erwin Elementary, 1477 Locustwood Ave., Lancaster

- Gooches Crossroads - South Middle School, 1551 Billings Drive, Lancaster

- Midway - Flat Creek Volunteer Fire Department, 7563 Flat Creek Road, Kershaw

- Pleasant Valley - Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church, 238 Fort Mill Highway (S.C. 160), Indian Land

- Pleasant Valley II - Higher Ground Church, 8365 Possum Hollow Road, Indian Land

- Riverside - Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church, 2814 Old Hickory Road, Lancaster

- Van Wyck - Van Wyck Community Center, 5036 Old Hickory Road, Lancaster

- Wylie Park - The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1005 University Drive, Lancaster

- Compiled by senior reporter Jenny Hartley