CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Early voting began Monday across South Carolina and voters in the Lowcountry seem to be taking advantage of the newly approved no-excuse early voting.

Legislation passed in May gave all registered voters the option to vote early. The format was first explored during the 202 elections which took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its success prompted permanent implementation.

Polls opened at 8:30 a.m. and just five hours later, Charleston County reported over 4,000 ballots cast. Nearly 4,600 are expected by 6:00 p.m., when polls close.

To put that in perspective, the estimated first-day total in Charleston County is expected to be just shy of 2020’s total, which was 5,537. Isaac Cramer, the Executive Director of the Charleston County Board of Elections, called it a “remarkable statistic” considering 2020 was a presidential election, which typically see more participation than midterms.

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In Dorchester County, over 1,200 votes were recorded by the afternoon, with that number expected to grow before polls closed.

Berkeley County reported 1,607 votes as of Monday afternoon.

At some Berkeley County locations, turnout was so large that voters like Stephen Huch opted to leave and come back when the lines died down.

Huch said the long lines indicated to him “that there are a lot of people interested in getting their vote in early, and that’s great.”

Despite the wait, voters said that they’re encouraged to see so many eager to participate in the democratic process.

Early voting is available through November 5 (with the exception of October 30) from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at designated locations throughout the state.

Editor’s note: Totals will be updated as data becomes available.