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SC turnout light across state in primary voting

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Turnout was light across South Carolina as voters cast their ballots Tuesday in confusing primary elections where hundreds of candidates were taken off the ballot earlier.

"It's been relatively quiet," said South Carolina State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

In Mount Pleasant, 21 voters cast their ballots by midmorning at a precinct where poll manager Linda Ambrose said she hoped for a 5 percent turnout. At one precinct in Columbia with 2,000 voters, only 26 had logged in by midmorning.

Whitmire said he'd gotten a report one voter did not find a certain candidate on his ballot, but the confusion arose because of redistricting and no irregularities occurred.

The state Supreme Court ruled last month that the law requires candidates to file their economic interest forms at the time they file their intension to run. Many had not. In the weeks running up to the primary, the focus has been as much about who is not on the ballot as who is.

About 436,000 registered voters were not able to participate after hundreds of candidates were tossed off the ballot.

Nearly 300 polling places in 14 counties did not even open Tuesday because there are no races to decide. In polling places that are open, voting got under way at 7 a.m. and continues until 7 p.m.

Candidates who were dropped from the ballot still can run as petition candidates in November, requiring the collection of voter signatures by July 16. Whitmire said he expects candidates to be at polling places Tuesday collecting those names.

Outside one polling place in Pawleys Island, a table was set up where voters could sign petitions for any of three local candidates who had been dropped earlier from the ballot.

Even before candidates were tossed, turnout was expected to be low because there are no statewide primary races up for consideration. The last time that happened, back in 2000, turnout was only about 19 percent, Whitmire said. And with fewer candidates on the ballot after the high court ruling, turnout is expected to be below that.

Still, at the Pawleys Island 3 precinct, voting was brisk, sparked in part by attention drawn by the primaries in the state's new 7th Congressional District in the northeastern corner of the state. Poll manager Ladd Dezendorf expected about 20 percent, but he said that would still be low for the precinct.

Thirteen candidates were on the ballot in the 7th District race. South Carolina gained the seat as a result of population growth in the last U.S. Census, and for the first time in eight decades, the state again has seven House members.

The nine Republican hopefuls include former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and former Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Chad Prosser and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice. There are also four Democrats seeking their party's nomination.

One Pawleys Island voter, retiree Gil Goldsmith, said the top issue for him is the future of Social Security.

"The government has essentially said we're taking your Social Security benefits, the same way a company would take a pension fund, and say we're spending it, which is illegal," he said. "Just like a company why doesn't the federal government have to repay the money they have borrowed from Social Security for years?"

In the 2nd District in the Midlands, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson again faced Phil Black of Lexington County, whom he defeated in the last two GOP primaries. There are also Democratic primaries in the 3rd and 4th districts.

Nine state senators and 14 state House members faced challengers. There will be 21 newcomers, with incumbents either retiring or seeking another office. There's also an election to fill the seat of former Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell.

After the court ruling, there are no major party candidates for four state House seats, while four House members ran for open seats.

Associated Press writer Susanne M. Schafer contributed to this story from Columbia, S.C.