Despite low expected turnout in South Carolina primary, voters show up for Biden

As predicted, South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday is proving to be a low-key affair – but that hasn’t stopped Joe Biden from trying to boost turnout.

The president posted a video on the social media platform X in which he said simply: “South Carolina, go vote today!” Biden also made a stop at his 2024 campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, alongside vice-president Kamala Harris.

Nearly seven in 10 voters have said they plan to vote for Biden during Saturday’s primary, a recent Emerson College poll found. Challengers Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson were polling at about 5% and 3%, respectively. Three in 10 South Carolina voters were expected to take part in the primary.

At least a handful of those who turned out to cast ballots did so despite encountering election day complications.

People with plans to vote at the Arsenal Hill Center in Columbia were confronted with a sign informing them the polling place had been moved to the Earlewood Park Community Centre a mile and a half away.

At the community centre in question, fewer than a hundred people had voted by noon. When one man was asked whether he had come to vote, he replied: “No – I’m here to play tennis.”

But voters for Biden did include Lou Fontana, 70, who used to work in television and for the South Carolina park service. “I believe in the man’s politics,” he said. “I believe in the fact that he’s a good man. I think he’s leading the country in a good direction.

“I can’t see how people are missing the fact that the economy has rebounded so much, stock market’s at an all-time high, we just had record job numbers again yesterday. I’m not sure what people don’t get.”

Fontana’s views on the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump were equally clear. Of the former president, who is grappling with more than 90 pending criminal charges, he remarked: “If you come look at my car, there’s a bumper sticker that says: ‘Elect a clown, expect a circus.’ That pretty much sums it up for me.”

Patrick Cleary, 40, a lawyer, also voted for the president. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be Biden versus Trump and I think Biden can beat Trump and I want Biden as our president,” Cleary said.

He welcomed South Carolina’s new first-in-the-nation status in the Democratic primary. “It’s an important statement for our state because this is a state that has a large African American population. African Americans support the Democratic party very well. It’s a true test if a candidate can appeal to an important part of the constituency.”

Asked about the prospect of Trump returning to the White House, Cleary replied: “That scares the hell out of me.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by Joseph Cerniglia, a 40-year-old social worker. Cerniglia said he voted for Biden “to stop Trump”.

He added: “I think of Trump as the worst president in US history.

“I believe that Trump’s policies are based on bigotry and hatred, dividing the working class in order to garner power for wealthy business people. By targeting people of colour, and increasing dysfunction in our immigration system, it’s destroying the fabric of America and democracy.”

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