More on Absentee Voting

George Reinhart, Precinct Clerk for Seabrook Island, asks all Seabrooker voters to apply to and vote absentee to ensure their safety and that of poll managers. The Legislature has presented us with an opportunity to vote in the primary election that eliminates health risks, long lines and major inconveniences. Please take advantage of this opportunity to cast your vote in the safest way possible. Click here for an application for a mail-in absentee ballot.

The following article was in the Post and Courier e-Edition on 5/13/2020, written by Jamie Lovegrove which discusses the reasons for voting absentee ballot has been expanded to include a state of emergency due to health risk.

Absentee voting for primaries expanded

COLUMBIA — All South Carolina voters will be able to request a mail-in absentee ballot for the upcoming June 9 primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic after state lawmakers approved a short-term bill Tuesday that added the ongoing state of emergency as a legal justification.

The unexpected move came just hours after a state Supreme Court hearing over the same issue, as South Carolina Democrats argued that the state’s limited absentee voting law would force many voters to risk their health in order to vote next month.

Under South Carolina law, voters need to cite one of several reasons for voting absentee, such as physical disabilities, having to go to work or being out of town on election day. The list does not include fears about contracting a virus during a pandemic.

But under the change passed Tuesday, South Carolinians can now vote absentee if a state of emergency is in effect within 46 days of the election. The June 9 primaries are 28 days away and any runoff elections would be on June 23, which is 42 days away.

The change will expire on July 1, meaning it will only apply to the primaries. Some Democratic lawmakers argued that they should extend the measure for the November general election, but Republican leaders said they could consider that later in the year if the state of emergency is still in effect.

Gov. Henry McMaster will sign the bill into law, spokesman Brian Symmes said.

South Carolinians can vote absentee by mail or in-person at voting locations set up by county election administrators. In-person absentee voting for the June 9 primaries opened last week.

The case in South Carolina Supreme Court was one of three lawsuits that had been filed in recent weeks over the absentee voting issue.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty had said the court planned to issue a ruling soon. But the Legislature’s action may now render that unnecessary.

Lawmakers also approved $15 million to go towards voting safety measures, which will help fund more protective equipment for voters who still decide to vote in person.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, introduced a bill in Congress earlier Tuesday that would require states to allow no-excuse absentee mail-in voting for all 2020 elections and give them $2.5 billion to enact those changes. The legislation would also offer another $2.5 billion to states for other voting safety measures, like ensuring access for voters with disabilities and recruiting and training more poll workers.

“The right to vote is a basic American right and our democracy depends on our citizens having access to the ballot box,” Clyburn said.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., but it may struggle to gain traction there due to opposition by the Republican majority. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said he believes “mass mail-in voting” could lead to voter fraud and opposes federal intervention on the issue.

-From the Post & Courier, Jamie Lovegrove

(Image credit:  Post & Courier)