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By Riley Morningstar
SENECA — Oconee County Republican and Democratic leaders are confident in their respective candidates as voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday.
County GOP chairman Bill Jerome said voter turnout is an important factor for Republicans.
“I think that Republicans should come out well in the election, just because Oconee County is a pretty conservative county and generally votes Republican,” Jerome said. “I think it’s going to be very important that we get very good voter turnout and that voters don’t get complacent and don’t believe that they don’t need to show up at the polls.”
Paulette Keffas-Chassin, chair of the county Democratic Party, also expressed confidence in her party’s chances on Election Day.
“I think it’s going to be a phenomenal turnout for the Democratic Party,” she said. “I think we’re going to make tremendous in-roads that we’ve never made before in this county. We’re going to have quite a number of crossover voters that are going to be voting Democratic this year. I think we’ll certainly see that when we look at the results, and we’re not going to have the normal 75 percent Republican straight-ticket turnout.”
Joy Scharich, executive director of Oconee County Voter Registration and Elections, provided The Journal with updated absentee voting data for the 2018 election, showing nearly 4,900 absentee ballots had been cast by Friday. The office will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and all day Monday for absentee voting.
She said 4,894 absentee ballots had been turned in Friday out of 5,216 absentee ballots that have been issued. A total of 3,263 absentee ballots were cast during the 2014 midterm election.
“I think it’s a real positive, especially for the Republican Party,” Jerome said of the absentee increase. “It shows that the voters are concerned about voter turnout and making sure that Republicans are victorious in the election. I think they realize the progress that’s been made since the 2016 election, and they want to maintain that economic growth.”
“I think it’s going to be great for the Democratic Party,” Keffas-Chassin said. “We’ve been in touch with constituents who are very upset with the Trump agenda — we’re very upset with this fear mongering and racism that’s been going on. We won’t stand for it, and people are upset. It’s not that bad in our county. I think we’re a lot more civilized here, but people are coming out to vote early because they want to send a message.”
While both party chairs are confident in their candidates and base, each has a different predicted outcome for Tuesday night.
“I personally think in Oconee County that all the statewide and local offices and the Third Congressional District seat will all come out to be Republican victories,” Jerome said. “I think that Oconee County and South Carolina are conservative and that the voters are going to want to maintain the progress from the 2016 election.”
“I think you’re going to see a change is coming in Oconee County,” Keffas-Chassin said. “We feel great. We have great faith in the people of Oconee County and that they’re going to vote for the people and not the party.”
Scharich said Democrat Israel Romero has withdrawn from the race for South Carolina superintendent of education against incumbent Republican Molly Mitchell Spearman.
“Although his name is still on the ballot and votes for this candidate will show on the precinct results tapes, votes for this candidate will not be counted or reported in the official vote totals,” Scharich said.
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