voting

An "I voted" sticker. 

Voters in Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Summerville and a dozen smaller cities across the tri-county area will go to the polls Tuesday to pick their local leaders.

Dorchester County voters also will decide on two referendums that would raise property taxes to generate $68 million for new parks and libraries.

Polls will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the region.

Lines aren't expected to be long because turnout is relatively lower in municipal elections and because there are fewer candidates and questions on the ballot. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Tuesday's election will mark the first time most Lowcountry voters will use South Carolina's new voting machines. (see sidebar).

Here's a look at what's at stake and some helpful advice for voters.

Charleston

The most prominent race on Tuesday's ballot is the mayoral contest in the city of Charleston, where incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg faces five opponents, including City Council members Mike Seekings and Gary White, former Councilman Maurice Washington and newcomers Renee Orth and Sheri Irwin.

Tecklenburg was first elected in 2015 when Mayor Joe Riley left office after 40 years. As most candidates made their pitches, there has often been broad agreement over the need to focus on flooding and drainage issues, new development and residential quality of life.

Instead, most have sought to distinguish themselves by debating the city's direction. Most of their discussion has revolved around who can best take the city there. Voters also will settle contested races for six of Charleston's 12 City Council seats.

One unique twist in Charleston: A candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday to win. Races without a clear winner Tuesday will go back before voters on Nov. 19 with the top two vote-getters' names on the ballot. 

North Charleston

Mayor Keith Summey has run North Charleston for 25 years, and he is asking voters to give him four more.

Unlike Charleston, where at least two mayoral candidates have been up on TV, this race is more low-key. Challengers John Singletary, Pastor Thomas Dixon, Ashley Peele and Floyd Dotter have offered criticism of Summey's tenure, particularly what he has and hasn't done to help the city's poorer communities.

Voters will also fill all 10 of North Charleston's City Council seats.

Mount Pleasant

Mayor Will Haynie is not up for re-election until 2021, but town voters will fill four of Town Council's eight at-large seats.

Aside from a few candidate forums, those races have been fought out on social media sites including Facebook and Nextdoor, where the atmosphere has been so harsh that Councilman Jim Owens decided to drop his re-election bid.

His name will be on the ballot, but votes for Owens will not be counted. The eight candidates includes Joe Bustos (the only incumbent), Stephen Becker, Howard Chapman, Brenda Corley, Gary Davis, Laura Hyatt, Mike Lawrie and Jake Rambo.

Summerville

Summerville voters will pick their fourth mayor in the past decade Tuesday, one who will help guide one of the state's fastest-growing towns.

Current Mayor Wiley Johnson is not seeking re-election, and current Dorchester County Councilman Bill Hearn, real estate agent Brandon King, local musician and artist Fleming Moore, and former longtime town fire chief Ricky Waring, are vying for the job.

Summerville's population has grown to more than 56,000 during the past decade and could surpass 60,000 in three years.

After Johnson's upset win over Bill Collins in 2015, Town Council had a few turbulent years, and most candidates have pledged to use the mayor's position to try to reunite Town Council and tackle growth-related issues such as traffic and infrastructure.

Can everyone vote?

No. Residents who live in unincorporated areas of Berkeley and Charleston counties have no races or referendums to decide Tuesday, and not all municipalities are holding elections, either. (See box of cities and towns with elections).

All Dorchester residents who are registered to vote may vote on the countywide park and library referendum. In 2016, they approved similar, but the courts tossed out the result on a technicality, ruling the question should have been split in two.

Will lines be long?

On Election Day in even-numbered years, races for president or governor, Congress and U.S. Senate, state and county seats are on the ballot. Lines often are longest then, both because of higher turnout and longer ballots requiring more time for voters to finish.

Tuesday is not one of those days. Not only is turnout expected to be far lighter, but most voters also will see only one, two or three contests to decide.

The early forecast calls for possible showers in the morning. 

Where can I learn more?

A quick and easy online source is the website assembled by the non-partisan League of Women Voters: Vote411.org. The site allows visitors to enter their address and find which local candidates are running. The site includes biographical information on some of the candidates.

The state's website, scvotes.org, has information on voter registration and polling places but does not contain sample ballots for Tuesday's municipal races.

Postandcourier.com also has many stories about the contests, particularly those in the larger municipalities.

Where do I vote?

Most of the regular polling places will be opened Tuesday, if there are any local races up for grabs in that precinct. A voter's precinct and polling place are determined by their address that should be listed on their voter registration card.

To check your voting location, visit the State Election Commission website at scvotes.org. On the homepage, click the tab that says “Voters.” Then, click “Check your voter registration.” You can also contact your county voter registration office.

What should I bring?

As with other elections, voters will need one of the following forms of photo ID:

  • S.C. driver’s license
  • U.S. passport
  • Federal military ID
  • S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles ID card
  • S.C. voter registration card with photo

If you do not have proper photo ID but are registered to vote, you may cast a provisional ballot.

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Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.