COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The next time you go to cast your ballot in South Carolina, you might be able to do it early with no-excuse.
A bill that passed unanimously in the state House of Representatives this week would establish a two-week early voting period in South Carolina and make other changes to the state’s election laws.
Lynn Teague with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina said they support no-excuse early voting in South Carolina. She said the elections in 2020 also showed early voting does not have a partisan bias.
“It does not help one party or the other,” Teague said.
The push to establish early voting in South Carolina picked up steam after 2020. No-excuse absentee voting for every voter was allowed in South Carolina due to the pandemic that year.
Charleston County Board of Elections Executive Director Isaac Cramer said in his county 75% of voters cast their ballots before Election Day. According to Cramer, anywhere between 25-35% voters cast their ballots early during a typical year.
Cramer said, “When you expand the opportunity for voters to not just cast their ballots on Election Day, but do it early, they’re going to do it. It’s also going to reduce the amount of lines we have on Election Day qne that just makes a better experience overall.”
According to state election officials, 53% of voters who cast ballots for the 2020 General Election did so early.
Under the bill, election workers would also be allowed to open absentee by mail ballots earlier. They would also face strict fines and possible prison time if they leak the results of elections early.
Cramer, who is also the Legislative Chairman for the South Carolina Association of Registration and Election Officials (SCARE), said county election offices would need additional funding if this bill becomes law.
He said, “It would help the process tremendously. So you can see these locations fully staffed with good trained workers and be a good experience for our voters.”
Teague said the biggest issue the League of Women Voters of SC has with H.4919 is a requirement for county offices to audit 5% of the ballots cast following an election. Teague said, “They gave a broad latitude for what kind of audit it would be. They also didn’t do anything about the unfortunate fact we have one of the shortest certification deadlines in the nation.”
She said she would like to see more clarification for this proposal.
Right now, the South Carolina State Election Commission (SEC) is required to conduct hand-count, post-election audits in all state-level elections. A spokesman says they were already planning to implement additional post-election audit programs in the future but will be ready to adapt if the bill becomes law.
The SEC said they have supported the concept of early voting for many years, and have never been more optimistic about its realization since the legislation passed the House this week.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.