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2020 Election Guide: Here's what you need to know

Registered voters can vote in-person, vote absentee in person or absentee by mail. Here's what you need to know.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The general election -- where the nation elects the next president, and state and local leaders -- is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

With health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, rather than wanting to go to their precinct location and stand in line to vote, many people are asking about options to in-person voting.

Currently in South Carolina*, the South Carolina Elections Commission lists three options to casting a ballot in the 2020 election -- registered voters can vote in-person, vote absentee in person or absentee by mail.

*The SC Legislature reconvened Monday, Sept. 14, to discuss broadening the definition of absentee voting because of COVID-19.

Register to vote

The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 election is at least 30 days before the election

Deadline for registering by mail: Monday, October 5. This should give the forms enough time to go back and forth through the US Postal Service. Mail-in registration MUST BE POSTMARKED at least 30 days before the election in order to vote in the election. Download the voter registration form, complete it, and return the completed form to your county board of registration by mail, FAX or email. Click here for the address of county offices.

Deadline for registering online: Sunday, Oct. 4. Go to info.scvotes.sc.gov to register online. You will need a valid SC driver's license or DMV ID card. 

Deadline for registering in person: Friday, Oct. 2. Go to your county board of voter registration or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and register in person. Click here to links to the address of county offices. Under the "Motor Voter Act" of 1993, you can register to vote while receiving services at certain state agencies such as the Department of Social Services and Armed Forces Recruiting Stations. Click here for a complete list of in-person voter registration locations in South Carolina.

To be eligible to register to vote in SC, you MUST:

  • be a United States citizen
  • be at least eighteen years old on or before the next election
  • be a resident of South Carolina in the county and precinct in which you are registering
  • not be under a court order declaring you mentally incompetent
  • not be confined in any public prison resulting from a conviction of a crime
  • have never been convicted of a felony or offense against the election laws OR if previously convicted, have served the entire sentence, including probation or parole, or have received a pardon for the conviction.
  • have a valid SC driver's license or DMV ID card. 

There is NO length of residency requirement and you do NOT have to choose a party in order to register.

"I'm a student and I want to vote." Students may register to vote where they reside while attending college. This could be at an address in the college community (e.g., a dormitory) or at an address you intend to return to while not in the college community (e.g., family home). Many college students who live on campus receive their mail at a campus post office box. These students must register at the physical address of their dormitory. The student's P.O. Box can be provided for mailing and contact purposes. 

What about convicted felons? According to the South Carolina Election Commission, "any person who is convicted of a felony or an offense against the election laws is not qualified to register or to vote, unless the disqualification has been removed by service of the sentence, or unless sooner pardoned. Service of sentence includes completion of any prison/jail time, probation and parole. 

"Once a person who was convicted of a felony or offense against the election laws serves his sentence, he may register to vote. To register, the applicant must submit a new voter registration application to his county voter registration office. To participate in any particular election, the applicant must submit the application prior to the 30-day voter registration deadline for that election. In applying, the registrant is swearing under penalty of perjury that he is qualified to register, including having completed his entire sentence. County voter registration boards must be satisfied that the applicant has completed his sentence; and in some cases, may request a person who has lost his voting rights due to conviction to provide proof that he has completed his sentence."

Check or update your voter registration information

When voting in person in South Carolina, you'll be asked to provide one of the following forms of photo ID at the polling station. 

  • SC Driver's license
  • SC DMV ID card
  • SC voter registration card with photo
  • federal military ID
  • US-issued passport

Make sure the information is up-to-date. You can check your voter registration information online at scvotes.gov

If you have moved since the last election, make sure your information is correct in the voter's registration system. You may have to update your current address with the DMV and then update your voter's registration address.

  • new address within the same county, click here
  • new address in a different county, you will need to re-register in your new county. Click here for addresses of county voter registration offices in South Carolina.

Changes must be completed 30 days prior to the election. If you try to vote in-person ON ELECTION DAY with a driver's license or ID card with an incorrect address, you may or may not be allowed to vote. You will be eligible to Failsafe vote under one of these conditions:

  • moved to new address within the same voting precinct = you vote a FULL ballot AFTER completing a change of address form at the precinct
  • moved to new address in new precinct in the same county = you can either
    • go to old precinct and vote a LIMITED, failsafe ballot containing only federal, statewide and countywide offices. Your updated address will be recorded on the failsafe ballot envelope
    • go to the voter registration office, complete a change of address form and FULL ballot
  • moved from one county in SC to another within 30 days of the election = you have the same two options as above -- limited failsafe or updated full
  • moved from another state to SC after the deadline to register to vote in the Presidential election = vote absentee with an absentee ballot containing only the presidential candidates. You should contact the appropriate absentee voting office in the state and county of residence from which you moved.

In person voting

Make sure you know where to vote. Click here for a list of precincts and to download a list of polling places and addresses. Polling locations can be adjusted up until election day. Make sure you know where you're headed when you go to vote.

Polling places are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Anyone in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Absentee in person

  • Go to your county's voter registration office, click here for addresses. People will be able to vote absentee in-person in South Carolina no later than Monday, October 5th for the 2020 General (Presidential) Election. You may vote up until 5 p.m. on the day before the election.
  • Don't forget to bring your photo ID
  • Fill out the application.
  • Cast your ballot.

Absentee by mail

Download and print the absentee application. Complete the printed application, sign the completed form and return the application to your county voter registration office as soon as possible by mail, fax, email or personal delivery.

OR

Call or email your county voter registration office and you will be mailed an application. Complete the printed application, sign the completed form and return the application to your county voter registration office as soon as possible by mail, fax, email or personal delivery. 

If you are relying on the Postal Service, 

  • allow time for mailing in the absentee application 
  • allow time for processing the application and the absentee ballot to be mailed to you 
  • and then allow time for you vote on the absentee ballot -- have your signature on the completed ballot witnessed --and to mail the completed absentee back to the county voter registration office.

Completed, signed and witnessed mail-in ballots should be mailed to county voter registration offices no later than one week prior to election day to help ensure timely delivery. Ballots must be received by the county voter registration office by 7 p.m. on election day. 

Who can vote absentee?*

  • Members of the Armed Forces (click here for additional information)
  • Members of the Merchant Marine (click here for additional information)
  • Spouses and dependents residing with members of the Armed Forces or Merchant Marine (click here for additional information)
  • Persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organizations (USO) who are attached to and serving with the Armed Forces outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them (click here for additional information)
  • Citizens residing overseas (click here for additional information)
  • Persons who are physically disabled (includes illnesses and injuries)
  • Students attending school outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them
  • Persons who for reasons of employment will not be able to vote on election day
  • Government employees serving outside their county of residence on Election Day and their spouses and dependents residing with them
  • Persons who plan to be on vacation outside their county of residence on Election Day
  • Persons serving as a juror in state or federal court on Election Day
  • Persons admitted to the hospital as emergency patients on Election Day or within a four-day period before the election
  • Persons with a death or funeral in the family within three days before the election
  • Persons confined to a jail or pre-trial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial
  • Persons attending sick or physically disabled persons
  • Certified poll watchers, poll managers, and county election officials working on Election Day
  • Persons sixty-five years of age or older
  • Persons who for religious reasons do not want to vote on a Saturday (Presidential primaries only)

More information on absentee voting can be found here