The Palmetto Project

Civic Participation Programs

The key to community involvement in South Carolina is often voting.  When citizens vote, they have a stake in the future of their communities that manifests itself in many constructive ways.   For most of the 20th century, South Carolina ranked 50th in the nation in voter turnout.   In one general election, only 7% of eligible voters cast ballots.  On the other hand, 102% of eligible voters were recorded as having cast ballots in 1876!

Palmetto Voter Project.  Since its founding in 1984, the Palmetto Project has been an advocate for election reform as a means of creating public confidence in our voting systems.   Since 1994 we added an additional focus on voter turnout, and the state’s voters responded by setting records in nearly every election since.

In 2001 and again in 2003, the Palmetto Project led statewide commissions on election reforms that produced the state’s first unified voting system.   In 2004 more than half of the state’s eligible voters cast ballots for the first time in history, and did it again in 2008 and 2012 by even bigger margins.  Our leadership in this field continues to ensure that our state’s votes are fully counted and voting is accessible and fair.

Of course, our iconic “I Voted” stickers at every polling place are a reminder that in South Carolina we consider voting a privilege and responsibility of all citizens.

Young Voters Initiative.   Citizens as young as 16 years-old can work as paid poll managers in South Carolina.  County election officials uniformly report that they are among their most reliable workers, especially in managing the electronic voting system the state uses.

In 2008 the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asked us to create a pilot project to explore ways in which young people might become more involved in elections.  Using social media we generated 364 new poll managers across the state and helped to double the number of voters ages 18-24 in that year’s general election.