Court Battles

South Carolina to again require witness signature on absentee ballots after appeals court ruling

South Carolina will reimpose a requirement for one witness to sign absentee ballots following a court ruling allowing the requirement.

The Palmetto State’s General Assembly temporarily allowed no-excuse absentee ballots earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic but retained the requirement for a witness signature. In response, Democratic advocacy groups filed a legal challenge to the requirement, saying the interaction required could spread the virus.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, an Obama appointee, ruled in their favor, according to the Charleston Post & Courier. However, after the state election commission and GOP lawmakers appealed the ruling, the U.S. 4th Circuit on Thursday applied a stay on Childs’s ruling.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) praised the ruling, according to the newspaper. He pointed out that the state legislature had already voted against removing the requirement legislatively. “This is a victory for state’s rights and the rule of law,” Wilson said, according to the Post & Courier.

In their appeal, Republican lawmakers said the decision should be left to legislators and that courts should not impose major changes to voting on such short notice before Election Day. They also alleged her ruling exaggerated the danger of coronavirus transmission involved in obtaining a witness signature in light of “how little time it takes to get a witness signature or how easily it can be done in compliance with CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) safety guidelines,” according to The State.

In their own brief Wednesday, Democrats argued that Marci Andino, the executive director of the Election Commission, had also argued the signature requirement should be waived. They also noted Childs had heard a case on the issue before state primaries in June, when she waived the witness requirement without any appeals.


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