Polls open for special election to fill former Sen. McConnell’s seat

Polls are open for the Senate 41 special election, including the Masonic Center on Orange Grove Road West Ashley.( Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/5/29/2012 )

A half-dozen poll workers looked up as two people strode into the Masonic Center on Orange Grove Road this morning.

“Voters!” one worker exclaimed with a smile as he put down the newspaper he was reading.

Nope, he was told, just a couple of reporters come to ask about the Republican Senate District 41 race to fill the seat vacated by Glenn McConnell. Were they seeing heavy turnout?

Much laughter followed, In the hour after polls opened, just six people had turned out to cast their ballot at the center. The crew on hand was gearing up for a sloooowwww day.

Six people had voted within a 90-minute period at St. Andrews District 10 at Pinecrest Baptist Church in West Ashley, said Michael Light, 66, of peninsular Charleston.

Standing outside in between the showers, Light was asking voters to sign a petition to get John Steinberger on the ballot this fall. Steinberger wants to challenge House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, for the House District 114 seat.

“I’ve never been political before. But I am now. I’ve been sitting back for too long. I don’t think I’m unique. I think we’ll have a good turnout this fall,” Light said.

So far, voter turnout has been low all across the district, but Charleston County’s Election Director Joseph Debney said he hopes things will pick up around lunchtime.

“We usually don’t have an election like this,” he said. “This election is coming two weeks prior to the June primary, so voters will also go to vote for the Senate 41 primary then.”

The special election is for McConnell’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of this year. The primary will pick a Republican candidate to run in November for the next full term. McConnell gave up the seat when he became lieutenant governor.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Paul Tinkler in a July 17 special election.

“The districts will be a little bit different, but it’s just something we haven’t done before,” Debney said.

The candidates are Charleston businessman Wally Burbage, Charleston lawyer Walter Hundley and Citadel educator Sean Pike.

Fair Tax advocate John Steinberger has dropped out of the race, but too late to have his name removed from the ballot.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.