Seriously, Get Out And Vote

Posted By: Katy Smith Latest News,

Hot, humid days. Swimming pool season. Kids home from school for the summer. Does any of this make you think of VOTING?

It should! The most important elections for South Carolina voters take place in even years in June, not 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 state and local offices have a significant impact on your lives and, if you're a member of our nonprofit and philanthropic community, the lives of the people you serve. 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 small fraction of South Carolinians play a part in electing them.

Here’s an example. In 2022, just under 51% of residents in my home county, Greenville, voted in the November election. Not great, but not too shabby. They voted for whichever Democrats or Republican candidates won their primaries and made it to the ballot. Here’s the problem, though. On the vast majority of those ballots across the states, there were no actual choices. For most offices, candidates from only one party file to run for any given seat - either all Republicans or all Democrats, depending on the part of the state you’re in.

Take a look at the screen shot from Ballotpedia from the November 2022 general election for SC House of Representatives members (below). You’ll see about 39 of the house districts listed. Only 11 of them had a choice on the ballot - candidates from more than one party to vote on. Across the state, only 50 of the 124 house seats had a choice between two candidates in the November 2022 election. But 23 of those seats with no choice in November did have a choice in the June 2022 primary - when only 17% of voters across the state came out to vote (and just 14% in my Greenville County home). In South Carolina, the June primary MATTERS.

Now, if you are civically engaged, you might think, “Sure, but community-minded folks like those of us in the nonprofit world are already part of that small group who do vote.”  Think again. We did a scan of about ten of Greenville County’s largest nonprofit boards (such as the Greenville Chamber, the United Way, and the Peace Center), comparing the board member list to the voter participation list, and we were dismayed to find that 60% of those community leaders - people who we’d think get it - stayed home from that June primary when their votes could have made a difference. 

If you care enough to work at a nonprofit or philanthropy, if you serve on a nonprofit board, or if you donate to charity, VOTING is a natural extension of that care. And if you care enough to connect your neighbors with health care, food, after school services, recreational opportunities, educational services, clean water and greenspace, and all of the things our nonprofits do, then VOTING is the next logical thing to connect them to.

Nonprofit organizations cannot endorse or express preference for candidates or parties and they can’t work to turnout voters who aren’t already a natural part of their missions. But they CAN and SHOULD do everything they can to connect their organizations’ employees, volunteers, donors, and clients to the simple and precious opportunity to vote - and the next big opportunity is in June.

Your next steps are:

  • From now through May 10th - Remind people to register to vote or confirm their registration is current and correct. Use your newsletters, social media, one-on-one contacts, and more!
  • Throughout May - Connect people with resources to look up their ballots and find out about the candidates. Help people make a plan to vote.
  • Starting May 28th - Encourage people to vote - early voting runs May 28th - June 7th. SC Election Commission lists all counties and their early voting places and hours.  
  • On June 11th - Election Day! This is in essence the deadline to vote. Life happens, so we strongly encourage using early voting to make sure nothing gets between you and your ballot! Find your polling place here

In Greenville County, our campaign Voting Matters connects organizations and businesses with resources and reminders to help their stakeholders participate in the June 11th primary elections. Click here if you’d like to sign up, too!

At Greater Good Greenville, we have no preference for candidate, party, or issue. But we have a strong preference for civic participation, and we want to see our turnout rate increase above our terrible 14%. We hope you will help in your community, too!