South Carolina lawmakers approve absentee ballot expansion
Lawmakers in South Carolina voted Tuesday to allow all voters in the state to cast absentee ballots in November’s election due to ongoing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The Post and Courier reported that the changes come under a new provision allowing voters to opt for mail-in ballots if they live in an area under an emergency declaration, which currently includes the entire state.
The bill passed with bipartisan support and is headed to Gov. Henry McMaster’s (R) desk for a likely signature, though Democrats urged their Republican colleagues to go further in enacting changes recommended by state election officials.
Among other changes being considered were a proposed elimination of the witness signature requirement and a proposal to set up drop-off boxes for absentee ballots across the state at election offices. Both plans failed on mostly party-line amendment votes, according to the Post and Courier.
A spokesman for McMaster’s office praised the bill in a statement to the newspaper, claiming that it “strikes a good balance between protecting South Carolinians and the integrity of the voting process.”
“Despite the Democrats’ efforts to change the voting rules in the middle of the game, voters can rest assured knowing the safeguards we have in place will remain,” added the chairman of the state Republican Party.
Democrats accused their GOP colleagues in statements during the vote of fearing the outcome of more voters being able to cast ballots in the fall.
“If your policies are so good, why are you afraid of people voting?” asked state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D) during a floor debate, according to the newspaper.
South Carolina’s expansion of absentee ballots comes as President Trump has repeatedly criticized mail-in voting and baselessly accused systems around the country of being rife with fraud.
“What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election,” the president said last month. “They’re using COVID to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election. We can’t do that.”