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City of Orangeburg sees low turn out of voters

There are 8,221 registered voters in the city of Orangeburg but only 903 people voted in this year's general election.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Orangeburg officials are trying to figure out how to improve the low number of voters after the September election saw a lackluster turnout.

"I don't even think we got over 1,000 people to come out to vote," said Liz Zimmerman Keitt, Orangeburg District Seat 5.

Data provided by the Orangeburg County Voter Registration Office show there are 8,221 registered voters in the City of Orangeburg.  Only 903 people voted in this year's general election. 

That's a 700 drop-off from the 2013 and 2017 elections, which had more than 1,600 voters.

"I assumed voters were aware, but maybe they weren't of the election," said Aurora Smalls, Orangeburg County's Voter Registration & Elections Director. "We had quite of few people come to the voter registration office wanting to know if they could vote or realizing the election was on September 14th."

Smalls says she suggested to city council to move the election to November so it will be easier for people to remember and also would save the town money.

"You'll pay the poll workers at one time, you have to have someone pick and deliver the equipment, the polling precincts have to be available, and you have to put notices in the paper," explained Smalls. "There's a lot of expenses when it comes to elections."

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The Orangeburg County's Voter Registration & Elections Director says Orangeburg is the only town in the county that has its election in September. 

During a city council meeting in February, council members voted 5 to 1 to reject Smalls' proposal. The reasoning was because they didn't want a non-partisan election intertwining with a partisan election. Councilwoman Keitt believes they should take a second look after this year's results.

"It tells me that we need people who want to move in a different direction so everyone can be on board to do the things we need to do," expressed Keitt. "People are not familiar with the election on that one day for just the city rather than coming out when the state or the county is being offered."

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