Local, Politics

S.C. House and Senate approves bill to allow absentee voting for all registered voters.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed the bill on Wednesday, September 16.

WHAT THIS BILL DOES:

  • Allows all qualified electors to vote by absentee ballot (like we did in the 2020 primary elections). They must request an absentee ballot of course.
  • Voters who wish to vote by absentee ballot must request the ballot no later than 10 days before the election (October 24). If a voter wants to go to the office and request an absentee ballot in person, he may do that no later than Friday, October 30. If a voter wants to vote in-person absentee, he may do that until Monday, the day before the election.
  • Allows absentee voters to return their ballots in-person to the voter registration office or to any satellite voting location in the county. This change ensures voters have more options to return absentee ballots, but it also protects against ballot harvesting and unsecured drop boxes because election commission staff must confirm the identity of the person returning the ballot and the ballot must be stored in a locked box inside the office.
  • In-person absentee voting will begin statewide on October 5, 2020. The State Election Commission was encouraging counties to open on September 28, and some counties were preparing to do that. This change allows for 4 weeks of in-person absentee voting and makes the date consistent statewide.
  • Allows county election commissions to begin opening the outer envelopes of returned absentee ballots at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 1. They may begin removing the ballots from the inner envelopes and running those ballots through the scanners at 7:00 a.m. on election day. This change should speed up the counting of absentee ballots to ensure counties can report election results on Tuesday night while also ensuring that ballots are not revealed before election day (as SCEC requested).
  • The State Election Commission and county board of elections must provide extensive public notice of the absentee voting process as set forth in the legislation, train poll managers and workers on the changes addressed in the legislation, conduct educational programs, and encourage social distancing at the polling locations.
  • The provisions of the legislation only apply to the 2020 General Election on November 3, 2020 and do not apply to any other election.

WHAT THIS BILL DOES NOT DO:

  • The bill does not permit drop boxes or unsecured voting drop off locations for absentee ballots.
  • The bill does not allow election officials to mail ballots to all voters. There must be an absentee request.
  • The bill does not change the process for absentee ballot applications to be requested electronically online.
  • The bill does not waive the required witness signature requirement on the absentee application.
  • The bill does not permit the county board of elections or State Election Commission to view absentee ballots or release absentee results before election day.
  • The bill does not create a single curbside voting location, as requested by the State Election Commission. Curbside voting remains as in current law.
  • The bill does not change permanent law. It is only for this electionâ– 

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