COLUMBIA — Voter turnout for Tuesday’s election was South Carolina’s lowest in at least 40 years, according to the State Election Commission.
About 44 percent of the state’s 2.9 million registered voters cast ballots in an election in which all incumbents seeking re-election to statewide offices, congressional and state House seats won another term.
That marks only the second time in four decades that turnout dipped below 50 percent in a general election, said agency spokesman Chris Whitmire, according to his review of records going back to 1974. The previous low was 45 percent in 2006, when voters re-elected former Gov. Mark Sanford.
Voters set a state record for highest turnout in 2008. Nearly 76 percent of voters cast ballots in the presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.
The largest voter turnout for a gubernatorial race in South Carolina was 64 percent in 1994, when David Beasley was elected governor.
Though voters were selecting 11 statewide offices Tuesday, including two U.S. Senate seats, there were no surprises in the outcome. As in 2010, Republicans swept them.
Two statewide officers, Adjutant General Bob Livingston and Treasurer Curtis Loftis, faced no opposition. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers faced only third-party challengers.
In the rematch between Gov. Nikki Haley and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Haley more than tripled her winning margin from 2010, from 4.5 percentage points to 14.5 percentage points. The gap between the two widened from 60,000 votes to 180,300, largely due to Sheheen’s support shrinking.
Haley won 56 percent of the vote Tuesday, but that percentage represented less than 3,900 additional votes from 2010, when 52 percent of voters cast ballots. Meanwhile, 116,400 fewer people voted for Sheheen.
The percentage of straight-ticket voting for Tuesday’s ballot was consistent with previous elections.
About half is normal for a general election; 49.5 percent of voters did so this year, Whitmire said.
Broken down, 24.6 percent of voters selected the box to vote only for Democrats, 23.4 percent chose a straight Republican ticket, and 1.5 percent total chose a third-party slate.