Will strange primary season lead to confusion at polls?

The stage is set for Tuesday's statewide primary, after one of the strangest campaign seasons in memory. Lawsuits, state Supreme Court rulings and ballot changes could lead to confusion at the polls.

Signs will be posted at some precincts advising voters not to vote for certain candidates who were disqualified after ballots were printed. Other previously disqualified candidates will be outside the polls, doing petition drives.

Hundreds of polling places around the state won't open Tuesday because no one is on the ballot.

How that will affect voter turnout is anyone's guess. Election officials say turnout for a typical primary is about 15 to 20 percent of registered voters, but the decertified candidates and last minute ballot changes make this year far from typical.

"Hopefully that won't deter anybody from coming out to vote," said Horry County elections director Sandy Martin. "There have been a lot of confusion with the candidates and various things, so it could have an impact."

The SC Supreme Court ruled last month that many candidates didn't properly file statements of economic interest.

That ruling disqualified around 200 candidates statewide, and a second ruling last week eliminated even more, including Jacqueline Williams, a Democrat running in SC House District 103.

Since ballots were already printed with some of those candidates' names on them, the South Carolina Election Commission will post signs at some polling places advising voters, "Your ballot may contain this name but votes cast for this candidate will not be counted."

Also, at many polling places, ousted candidates will be seeking signatures on petition drives to get their names back on the ballot in November. Martin expects around 20 of those petitions in Horry County alone.

With all that, she said county election workers have been scrambling over the past month to keep up.

"All the issues that we've had with candidates being certified, then not certified, and then they had to go through them again and more were taken off, it's just made it hard to get our ballot solidified."

In Horry County, most of the decertified candidates were taken out before the ballots were printed, so only a handful of precincts in House District 103 in the Conway area will need the signs telling voters not to vote for a candidate.

Martin said those candidates doing petition drives will not be allowed to approach people on the way in to vote, but only on the way out after they've cast ballots.

She said election officials will be watching closely and candidates who don't follow the rules will be asked to leave.