COLUMBIA, S.C. — All eyes will be on South Carolina on Saturday as voters head to the polls for primary day.

But, thousands of votes have already been cast by absentee in-person voting and by mail.

Voters like Linda Thomas said they've noticed people are enthusiastic this year.

“I think they are and they should be and when we do our part in our families and with our children, and we let them know the importance is here, I think it gives them that extra push,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a self-described Democratic voter and said issues affecting the middle and working class are most important to her.    

She’s one of more than 50,000 absentee voters whom have participated this year. In Richland County on Thursday, more than 1,000 people had voted.

So far, the state has sent out 57,536 absentee ballots and received 50,629 of them, according to the State Election Commission (SEC).

The 50,629 returned ballots are double what the number was on Monday of this week.

State Democratic Party chair Trav Robertson said it's good news for the party.

“There's no question, we're looking to have what we think is going to be a pretty good turnout. And our hope is that we can translate that organization and that enthusiasm into November when we go back to take back the state senate or add members to the House and elect Joe Cunningham to Congress,” Robertson said.

The absentee number is also higher than other presidential primaries except 2016, when there were primaries for both parties.

According to SEC Data:

  • 2008: 35,598 absentee ballots (primaries for both parties)
  • 2012: 27,091 absentee ballots (Republican primary)
  • 2016: 114,713 absentee ballots (primaries for both parties)
  • 2020: 50,269 absentee ballots (Democratic primary)

Historically, absentee voting totals increase each presidential cycle as more and more people consider it a convenient way to vote, according to SEC Spokesman Chris Whitmire.

After primary headaches in Iowa, including confusion with results, Robertson is confident Saturday will run smoothly.

“We've got new machines and those machines have had probably about 200 municipal or local elections on those machines since. So, we feel fairly confident and our hope is that the election commission will do a fantastic job as they always have,” Robertson said.

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The chairman added he's not worried about Republicans participating in the primary.

“They have to rationalize why moderate Republicans are going to vote for a Democratic candidate. But, I’ve run a lot of campaigns in this state, an effort like that, to be truly impactful, you’re talking about several hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not several million, to really drive turn out. But if turnout is high in this state, Republicans are going to be concerned,” Robertson said, adding moderate Republicans are uncomfortable with President Trump’s behavior.

Earlier this week, Joe Jackson with the Republican National Committee and SCGOP said they were not putting effort into getting their voters to participate.

Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm on Saturday.