Who Will Be on the Ballot?

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37 candidates have filed to run in June 11th primary races touching Greenville County, SC for offices like County Council to Sheriff to state House, Senate, and Congress. Almost HALF of them will have no competition in November, meaning your primary votes are tremendously important. But in 2022, only 14% of voters turned out in the primary.

This episode runs through some of the details around our statewide primary, how it works, and who’s on the ballot.


Register to vote and check your registration status

See who is on the ballot in Greenville County


Katy Smith:
[0:02] Hot, humid days, swimming pool season, kids home from school for the summer.
Does any of this make you think of voting? Well, it should.
The most important elections for South Carolina voters take place in even years in June, not in November.
The June statewide primaries, which take place this year on June 11th, are when parties choose which state and local candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election.
This includes our South Carolina legislators, our members of Congress, and local seats like county council and sheriff.
These elected officials make decisions about things like property taxes, schools, roads and transit, public safety, parks, arts funding, and so much more.
But only a fraction of South Carolinians play a part in electing them.
Today’s episode covers who will be on the ballot on June 11th, why you need to pay attention, and how to participate in the South Carolina primary.
If you’re interested in seeing who will be on the ballot, you can click the link in the show notes for a listing by district of all of the districts that touch Greenville County.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[1:06] Well, I am excited to be here today with you, Katy. Thank you for letting me host the podcast this time.

Katy Smith:
[1:12] Thank you, Nathaniel. This is like civics nerd Christmas morning.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[1:17] Yes, yes. It is a ritual for us to do these every once in a while as well so always look forward to it, and the listeners love it. I know that for a fact.
So let’s jump into it with that in mind. We are recording this episode on the afternoon of April 1st, 2024, and it’s a very time-sensitive conversation. Why is that?

Katy Smith:
[1:36] Not because it’s April Fool’s Day, but because noon today was the deadline for candidates to file to run for all state and local offices other than our school board.
So anyone who wants to be a state senator or a state house member, our county council members, our sheriff, our Greenville clerk of courts, our coroner, and our registrar of deeds, had to all file with the election commission by noon today to declare their candidacy.
And now we know who you all need to be thinking about when it’s time to vote on June 11th.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[2:10] So many listeners like me might be thinking, hold on, elections are November. Why June?

Katy Smith:
[2:16] So, just like you go to vote in February for the presidential primary in South Carolina to determine which presidential candidates get on the ballot for the Democratic and Republican parties, in June, our state has primaries to determine which candidates get on the ballot for local and state offices.
These are such important offices, everybody.
They are the members of our legislature who, as an example, this year have voted on or talked about things like abortion, gun policy, medical marijuana, money for bridges and judicial reforms, like really important topics.
They include our county council members who address our roads, zoning, economic development, appointment to boards like our library system.
And they include our congressional seats in the House of Representatives.
So these are such important offices that too often get overlooked.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[3:08] Well, now that it is April 1st and it is past noon and you’ve had an opportunity to look at who’s filed to be on our primary ballots, what are your thoughts?

Katy Smith:
[3:17] Okay, well, first I need to say that we at Greater Good Greenville endorse no party or candidate, and we have no public policy agenda that orients us to any particular issue.
Everyone who listens know that we are just pro-civics, meaning we want people to be involved in the process of government.
And we also know that impact, that feeling that your vote makes a difference, is one of the biggest drivers of voter turnout.
So let’s talk about what’s happening this coming primary season.
Okay, so first on the primary ballot, there are 37 seats up for election in Greenville County.
Again, that’s things like county council seats, that’s our sheriff, that is our state house and senate members.
So there are 37 of them that are up this year. Your vote will make a difference only in June in almost half of those. So why is that? Let me go a little bit deeper here.
For 17 of those 37 seats, you can vote only in the primary, meaning that only Democrats or only Republicans have filed to run.
Let me give you an example at a high level. So if you live in like the North Main Street area of Greenville or Taylors, you may be in an area that’s covered by County Council District 20, South Carolina House House District 22, and South Carolina Senate District 6.
So those seats might overlap to cover where you live.

Katy Smith:
[4:40] Of course, you are also, because you live in Greenville County, served by the Greenville County Sheriff, the Coroner, and the Clerk of Courts.
Each of those six races that I just mentioned had only Republicans file.
So the only way to have a choice in who serves you is to vote in the June 11th primary.
Since no Democrat filed to run, if you only go to vote in November…
You will just see the winners of the Republican primary on the ballot done.
Your vote won’t make any difference in all of those seats if you live in that particular area, as an example.
Another example, if you live in the Belle Meade-Pleasant Valley area down Augusta Road, you likely fall in County Council District 25.
In that area, four Democrats have filed to run, and no Republicans.
So if you want a choice on who represents you in County Council, you would want to vote in the Democratic primary in that part of town.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[5:33] So to summarize that, basically, who you vote for in the primary determines who will win because they’re running unopposed.

Katy Smith:
[5:40] Exactly.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[5:42] So what about the other 20 races that filed today?

Katy Smith:
[5:44] Okay, so a quick rundown. Five of them had no opposition at all. No one else filed.
So congratulations to South Carolina Representative Bobby Cox and South Carolina Senators Rex Rice, Tom Corbin, and Shane Martin, and Greenville County Register of Deeds Tim Nanny.
For all practical purposes, they are now re-elected.
Six of those 37 races had a candidate file in more than one party.
So there won’t be anything on the primary ballot, but you’ll see two choices in November.
Like, for instance, in House District 27, Republican David Vaughn will face Democrat John McCarthy.
There’s no primary opposition in June. They will go on and you’ll see competition on that November ballot.
In nine of the races, there are multiple candidates in at least one of the primaries, as well as opposition in November. So we have a couple seats where there might be multiple Republicans who will battle it out in the primary, and then they will go on to run against a Democrat who filed to run in November, for example.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[6:43] Okay. So this makes me wonder. So let’s say there is a primary where the voters decided in June, right, who that Republican would be, and they’re running unopposed, so no one’s running against them.
Could someone at the last minute then decide, actually, I still want to run?
Because it’s past the April 1st deadline, like well past April 1st at noon.
So how would that work if someone decides like, I actually think this person needs some competition and I want to put my name out there?

Katy Smith:
[7:12] Okay. So someone could try to have a write-in candidacy in which they get people to like literally write their names on the ballot when they go to vote in November.
You are not trying to run as a party candidate. You are just putting your name up there.
And so you’re going to have to do a lot to turn out people to all know that they want to write in Nathaniel DeSantis.
You’re going to have to get yard signs out there and all the same effort to beat them.
And you all, if you voted before, remember, you’ll go in and there might be, there’s a write-in choice and you’ll be able to type in on your ballot screen that person’s actual name. So that is one way to try to get in.
The other way someone could get on the ballot is to be nominated by petition.
And this is a pretty involved process that needs to be followed exactly.
The candidate would need to get valid signatures of at least 5% of the active registered voters within the geographical area that the office represents.
So let me just pause there a second. You cannot send a change.org petition out to all the people that you know and have your friends from high school back in Topeka, Kansas sign it because they don’t live in the the area, and they have to be valid, validatable, registered voters.
So we need to be able to look and see, oh, yes, indeed, she does live in Maulden, you know, within that area, whatever that may be.

Katy Smith:
[8:30] Furthermore, there’s like specific things like your petition has to be printed on good quality original bond paper sized 8.5 by 14.
It has to have a statement of purpose. You have to get really particular information.
So it is a heavy lift, but someone can do it and they need to file said petition by July 15th to make it to the actual ballot.
So if you succeed at that, then your name gets printed along with the winner of the statewide primary from June.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[8:58] So for those wondering, how would they go about voting in a primary?

Katy Smith:
[9:02] Yeah, it’s not hard, but there are some things you need to think about.
So remember that these primaries are for the Republican Party to choose Republican candidates and the Democratic Party to choose Democratic candidates to be on the ballot in November.
Now, all of you listening, none of you is a South Carolina Election Commission card-carrying member of a party, because in South Carolina, we do not register to vote by party.
We are one of 20 states in the country that has open primaries, meaning you can choose which primary you want to vote in, Democratic or Republican.
So how would I approach this if I were you? Well, first, you can look up your sample ballot for both parties at scvotes.gov.
You just go to scvotes.gov, click on voters, and check my sample ballot.
You’ll enter in a little bit of relevant information.

Katy Smith:
[9:53] And then you’ll see, okay, what are my choices in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party?
The ballots won’t be ready until around mid-April. So if you’re getting to this right away, as soon as you hear this podcast, keep checking and you can see what your choices are.
And then you can decide which party primary you want to vote in.
And to do this, you do the same thing as you do to go vote in any election.
You’re going to go on election day to your polling place or to an early voting place.
If you decide to vote early, you’ll walk in, you’ll present your identification.
You’ll tell the person working there, which primary you wish to vote in, or they’ll say, which primary do you wish to vote in?
And you’ll tell them, and then they’ll load the right ballot in the machine for you, Democrat or Republican, and you’ll vote that ballot, you’ll get your sticker, you’ll head home.
So really, other than you saying which party you want to vote in, it’s the same as anytime you vote.

Katy Smith:
[10:41] Okay, here’s something really important to note, though. Some of you listening are deeply passionate about one party or the other.
And for you, it is inconceivable to you that it could be an open question for someone on what primary to vote in.
So even though you don’t have a party card from the state, since we don’t register by party, you literally are a dues-paying member of the Greenville County Republican Party or the Democratic Party or you’re a lifelong volunteer and donor to a particular party.
So voting in another party’s primary to you is like a Clemson fan wearing garnet and black the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I totally get it.
The main point I’m trying to make here is that we have been astonished by how few people who care deeply about Greenville County and who do pay attention to what’s going on in government, who do not understand how our June primary works and how important it is.
Only 14% of Greenville County voters participated in the 2022 primary, and many of them were so disappointed to learn that they had no choice on the ballot when they showed up to vote in November, along with 51% of voters.
We do not want you, our Simple Civics listeners, to be caught unaware about this.
Primaries are so important, and we just really want you to pay attention and vote the way your heart tells you to vote.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[11:58] I agree, Katy. And with that in mind, I think it’s a perfect opportunity for the last question, which is, what are we doing to help people get ready this election season?

Katy Smith:
[12:08] I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do to inform voters in previous elections for city council and for local office.
And we’re going to do the exact same thing this election season.
So we have interviews scheduled with every single contested seat for Greenville County Council.
We’ll probably add some more to the schedule, but we really do have everyone locked in to come in and talk to us.
And we’ll start rolling those episodes out in mid to late April.
So you’ll have time to prepare yourself for early voting.
And we’ll find lots of other ways to get good candidate information out to you.
We’ll also be pushing it out on Facebook in boosted ads just to a very general Greenville County audience.
So if someone isn’t paying attention, hopefully, they’ll see it come up in their feed.
And we hope that you will share that information with your friends and neighbors as well.
And then lastly, we are proud at Greater Good Greenville, which sponsors this podcast, to have an effort called Voting Matters that allows nonprofits and businesses to sign up to learn about why voting is so important in the primary and to share that information with employees, with donors, with volunteers, with whoever might be a part of it.

Katy Smith:
[13:11] We, as I said, don’t support any particular party or candidate, and that is not the spirit of this campaign either.
In fact, we’ll encourage all those who sign in to be completely neutral.
The thing that we are pro is pro getting involved, and we just want to connect people with that information and opportunity.
So if you’re interested, go to greatergoodgreenville.org, and on our homepage, you’ll see a button to learn more and to take the pledge to get people to vote.
But we really just appreciate you all for listening and hope you will help spread the word to folks to know to turn out to vote this election.

Katy Smith:
[13:44] I’d love to say one more thing, too, about the election. The official election is June 11th. But as we’ve shared in the past, in South Carolina, we now have early voting two weeks before the election. It opens on May 28th.
I have started calling election day the election deadline, because life gets in the way. You all know that. Sometimes you have the best of plans to go and do a thing on a particular day.
But if something comes up, you do not want to miss that opportunity to vote.
And we just really encourage you to get out on whatever day you can to cast your ballot in this important primary.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[14:19] So I lied when I said we had one question left. This is the official last question for today. What can people do right now?

Katy Smith:
[14:26] Right now, they need to register to vote if they haven’t registered already, or they need to check their registration to be sure everything is correct on it, if they’ve moved or if anything’s changed.
And that is so simple to do. Go to scvotes.gov, click on voters, you’ll see register to vote or check your registration and just plug in a couple simple pieces of information and you need to have it done by around May 10th 11th or 12th depending on if you’re doing by mail or online. So get it done, tell everyone you know to get it done… if you have anyone in your house who’s a teenager who will be 18 on November election day on November 5th, they are allowed to vote in the primary so get them to register as well.

Nathaniel DeSantis:
[15:08] Well, fantastic, Katy. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
And listeners, thank you for listening. And let’s have a very exciting candidate interview series.
We have that coming out very soon and we’re working on it diligently for you listeners.
So stay tuned for that.

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of Podcast Studio X.

Image via Canva.

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