Mr. Cannon, who is white, said the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, which led to thousands of protests across the country this summer and conversations about race and racism, sharpened a collective focus on racial injustices. But, he said, his department was already making progress, including efforts to reduce the county’s inmate population.
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And about three months ago, Mr. Cannon, 74, said he moved to avoid “flash points,” such as directing the force to issue citations rather than make arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Both candidates said they were encouraged by the surge in early voting in Charleston County. As of Thursday, about 76,000 people had voted in person, compared with 43,000 in 2016. And mail-in ballots jumped from 16,000 to 52,000, county records show.
Hoping to harness the energy at demonstrations amid a national conversation about race, organizers pushed massive voter registration drives over the summer. The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of activist groups, hosted a series of virtual town halls and conventions focused on election issues. And local chapters of Black Lives Matter hosted Instagram live chats with candidates to weigh their positions on issues of race and policing.
Rock the Vote, a nonprofit organization aimed at registering young voters, said its platform had surpassed two million registered voters this year, up from 1.7 million in 2016. Since Mr. Floyd’s death, Voto Latino, a nonprofit political organization, registered 451,976 voters across the country.
“Following the murder of George Floyd, we saw an explosion in voter registrations,” said Danny Turkel, communications manager of Voto Latino, noting that the organization registered 97,000 voters in June alone. He said a July poll showed that three-quarters of Latinos surveyed supported the Black Lives Matter movement and 64 percent said police reform was among their top reasons to vote.