COLUMBIA - More than 26,000 votes have been cast in next week's primaries in South Carolina, according to the State Election Commission.

The pace of voting is a little slower than the primaries four years ago, but well ahead of the pace in 2012, when there were no statewide races on the ballot.

As of Friday afternoon, South Carolina voters have requested almost 34,000 absentee ballots for Tuesday's primaries, with more than three-quarters of them already returned. More than six in 10 of those ballots were for the Republican primary.

The turnout is a little slower than the 2010 primaries when 39,000 absentee votes were cast. Those primaries had contested governor races in both parties, while this year, there are primaries for the U.S. Senate seats occupied by both Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. Graham is running for a third full term, while the winner of Scott's seat would get to serve the final two years of the term of Jim DeMint, who resigned in 2012.

The number of absentee ballots cast this year has nearly already passed the numbers in 2012 with four days left before the primaries. Two years ago, just 27,000 absentee votes were cast in a year that saw no statewide candidates on the ballot.

Officials say about 16,500 of the 21,200 absentee ballots requested for the GOP races have been returned, while about 9,700 of the 12,500 ballots sent out for the Democratic primary are already in hand.