COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Lawmakers are one step closer to allowing all South Carolina residents to apply for an absentee ballot to vote in the November presidential election.
State senators unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would expand absentee voting eligibility to everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, absentee ballots can only be requested by registered voters who also meet certain requirements.
Reasons a person may be able to vote absentee include military service, disability, a planned vacation that takes them out of state on election day, being over the age of 65, etc. See the full list of 18 reasons a person may currently vote absentee by clicking or tapping here.
The bill would expand that list of reasons to allow anyone to request an absentee ballot due to COVID-19.
While the bill would open up absentee voting to any eligible voter in South Carolina, the GOP-backed bill does not go as far as some Senate Democrats hoped.
The bill would not allow for drop boxes for ballots. People voting by absentee ballot would have to return the ballot by mail or go into an election office under the bill.
It also does not waive the witness signature requirement on an absentee ballot.
While the bill does not allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot online, they can still request that application online.
Voters will then be mailed an application, which they can return by email, mail, fax or in person. If approved, a voter would then get their ballot in the mail.
For more details on that process, visit the SC Election Commission website.
The bill also does not address curbside voting, something Democrats hoped to see.
All of these were recommendations set forth by state and local election officials. Senate Democrats proposed changes to the bill Wednesday to include drop boxes, curbside voting, waiving the signature, etc... but those were all voted down.
“I don’t quite understand why we want to restrict access over this concern for security. There’s not one reported case of voter fraud in South Carolina in 20 years,” Sen, Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said. “This is all about limiting access to the poll.”
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, pushed back on that claim.
He said law enforcement are investigating at least three claims of voter fraud that he knows. He did not provide any additional detail.
According to Sen. Massey, they considered the requests by the State Election Commission that Democrats put proposed as changes to the bill.
“We adopted a number of the things they requested,” he said. “We think some of them were not good ideas. Our overall goal was to make sure everyone can vote and at the same time protect the integrity of the process.”
Now that the Senate passed the bill, it’s heading to the House.