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Democrats file lawsuit to expand absentee voting in South Carolina

The party said absentee voting rules must change due to the problems caused by the coronavirus.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democrats are filing a lawsuit to get South Carolina to expand absentee voting for the upcoming primary in the state and the general election in the fall.

The South Carolina Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said they filed the suit Wednesday with the South Carolina Supreme Court. The suit names the State Election Commission as the defendant. That agency, however, has called for changes to voting procedures, including "no excuse" absentee voting. 

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South Carolina's next major election is the June 9 primary, where voters will pick candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House seats, and many local and state legislative elections. 

Democrats have been saying that with the ongoing coronavirus battle all people should be able to vote absentee to avoid large crowds at precincts. The suit wants the court to rule that people who practice social distancing qualify as "physically disabled persons" who can vote absentee. They also want the court to agree that the virus threatens people's constitutional right to free and open elections. 

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South Carolina law has limited reasons for when someone can vote absentee, including work conflicts, being out of town on the date of the election, and people serving in the military. 

South Carolina law doesn't allow for new reasons to be added to that list unless the legislature passes a change to the law. Due to the virus, lawmakers are unlikely to return to work until after the June 9 election, or right before it.