GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – In-person absentee voting began Monday, October 5th across South Carolina. More than a hundred voters waited outside the Greenville County Elections and Registration Office as the polls opened.
Monday, October 5th is also the deadline to register to vote.
Voters like Lenora Croft started to line up outside doors at 6:30 a.m., two hours before absentee voting began.
Croft said she made sure she and her family members were the first people in line to avoid crowds on Election Day. She said they wanted to vote early to “be safe.”
“My mother is 88 and my sister and I have ailments,” she said. “We don’t want to do mail-in voting because we don’t trust that too tough and this COVID has turned voting upside down.”
Conway Belangia, Elections Director for Greenville County, said the wait at 9:00 a.m. was three times as long as it has been in years past on the first day of in-person absentee voting, estimating a 2 and a half hour wait time.
“A better time is not the first 2 or 3 days,” he suggested to those wanting to avoid long lines. “Come mid-morning, mid-afternoon.”
He responded to concerns about mail-in voting, saying that the elections office is confident in the reliability of the voting mail-in system. “If somebody has a problem with immune systems, vote by mail,” he said. “We trust the mail system totally. As long as you don’t wait until the last minute to mail it back to us, our mail system is good.”
To vote absentee in-person, voters need to visit a county voter registration office, fill out an application inside and cast an absentee ballot. Those who already filled out an application, received a ballot in the mail and simply want to cast their ballot in person do not need to wait in line and can walk up to a separate table, Conway said.
Absentee voters may vote in person until Monday, November 2nd at 5 p.m.
Those voting absentee by mail must apply for an absentee ballot by October 24th before 5 pm. Once a voter receives an absentee ballot, it must be turned in by Tuesday, November 3rd at 7 p.m., according to the SC Election Commission.
Belangia said voters worried about getting sick, including those with weakened immune systems, can take advantage of the voting by mail option.
He gave the following advice for those who will be voting by mail:
Voters must sign the voter’s oath and return the ballot either by mail, personal delivery or authorized returnee.
As the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals debates the rule, Conway explained that voters mailing in their ballots do not need a witness signature, but he recommends getting one just to be safe. This can be a person of any age, he said.
If returning a ballot by mail, voters are encouraged to mail it as soon as possible, preferably a week before election day, to help ensure timely delivery.
You can check the status of your absentee ballot at scVOTES.gov.
The elections office in Greenville County is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Belangia also touched on several other voter topics, including turning in absentee ballots, social distancing at precincts, their current staffing in Greenville County, witness signatures and poll watchers.