Tuesday's South Carolina special election primary is a first: Under the state's new voter ID law, all voters are now required to show photo identification at the polls.
The U.S. District Court in Washington blocked the Palmetto State from enforcing the law during the 2012 presidential election, much to the relief of critics and minority voters. But that same three-judge court unanimously decided that the photo ID requirement does not discriminate against racial minorities and thus could be implemented in 2013.
"I don’t think it’ll have much effect on turnout,” South Carolina Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire said of the state’s new voter ID law. Whitmire told msnbc.com Tuesday that of the 13,500-plus ballots cast in a recent local election in nearby Horry County, only 10 voters came to the polls without photo IDs.
As of 12:45 p.m. EST, Whitmire said he had not been alerted to any voter ID issues in the five counties voting in Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District primary.
Sixteen Republicans and two Democrats are on the South Carolina primary ballot, all competing for Rep. Tim Scott’s seat in the House of Representatives. Scott was tapped to replace Sen. Jim DeMint when the Tea Party favorite announced his retirement midterm.
In such a crowded field, The State speculates that voter turnout will decide Tuesday’s winners, citing campaign officials’ prediction that turnout “is almost certain to be light—about 30,000 voters.”
The most talked-about candidates: Former Gov. Mark Sanford, whose infamous extramarital affair nearly four years ago was thought to crush the then-rising GOP star; and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, running for the Democratic ticket.
Sanford is expected to grab about a third of the Republican vote, making him the first-place GOP finisher, The State reports. But it's unlikely any one candidate will reach South Carolina's 50% threshold required to win a primary outright, given the packed ballot. If no candidate earns at least half of the vote, a runoff will take place between the first- and second-place finishers on April 2.
“He’s great at policy and he’s great at grass roots politicking,” Time magazine's Mark Halperin said of Sanford on Tuesday's Morning Joe. “I think given the district, given his strength, given how hard he’s worked, he’s likely to become a congressman. Again.”
South Carolina voters have been bowled over by television ads—something they didn’t experience during the 2012 presidential race, as South Carolina wasn’t in play after the GOP primary. And though Sanford has been the explicit target of certain attack ads, NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell reports that Sanford’s apology tour just might be working.
“I’ve been struck by the warm reception of people who are meeting him,” O’Donnell said of the former governor. Sanford told NBC News that he has been impressed by voters’ willingness to open up about their own experiences, allowing him to connect with voters in a way he wasn’t able to before admitting to his affair in 2009.
For the GOP ticket, Sanford is competing with Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston County Council member; Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner; State Sen. Larry Grooms; State Rep. Chip Limehouse; and 11 others.
Charleston businesswoman Colbert Busch faces just one Democratic opponent in today’s primary: Ben Frasier, who won the Democratic primary for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District in 2010 before losing to Rep. Tim Scott.
Polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m. EST.