x
Breaking News
More () »

Columbia's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Columbia, South Carolina | WLTX.com

SC governor signs absentee voting expansion bill

The House voted 115-1 Tuesday during a special session to approve the rule changes.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has signed a bill that essentially lets anyone who wants to vote absentee in November's general election.

McMaster held a signing ceremony at the State House Wednesday afternoon. 

The House voted 115-1 Tuesday during a special session to approve the rule changes. In short, they agreed with a Senate bill passed earlier this month that allowed anyone to request an absentee ballot without providing a specific excuse. Normally, there is a much narrower list of reasons for voting absentee. 

The bill still requires a witness signature despite objections from many Democratic lawmakers who said it jeopardizes voters’ health, and could impede the right to vote. 

Challengers to the witness provision are already looking for a day in court.

For June's primary, the state passed a similar rule that allowed for the COVID-19 emergency to be a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.  To be clear, this is not mail-in voting, which is not allowed under South Carolina law.

Last month, South Carolina Elections Commission Executive Director Marci Andino sent a letter to lawmakers, including Peeler, asking for emergency changes to get ready for the general election. She said action must be taken to ensure a smooth election process while also protecting workers and voters at the polls during a pandemic. 

RELATED: What are my options to vote in the 2020 election in South Carolina?

Andino wrote that similar measures used during June's primary elections must be in place during the November election.  She said if they aren't, absentee mail will be overwhelmed, the number of poll managers won't be enough, and it will be difficult to maintain social distancing in the middle of a pandemic. 

RELATED: Coronavirus worries force election officials to get creative

In South Carolina, turnout in non-gubernatorial statewide primaries averages 16%, while presidential elections average 71%. In the June primaries, absentee ballots by mail went up 370% compared to 2016 (27,000 to 127,000). Those statistics were included in the letter to lawmakers.