COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina lawmakers unanimously voted on a bill that would expand absentee voting for the June primaries due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure would allow all South Carolinians to request an absentee ballot and mail in their vote, rather than going to a polling location.
Representative Wendy Brawley of District 70, one of the co-sponsors of the bill said this would allow more people to take part in the election process from the safety of their homes during a pandemic or state of emergency.
RELATED LINK | Absentee Voting Qualifications
If the bill is signed into law voters must list the coronavirus pandemic as they reason for voting absentee. It will also only apply to the June primaries and run-offs.
It is now up to Gov. Henry McMaster to sign it into law.
Meanwhile, WMBF News learned that the South Carolina Elections Commission (SEC) received $6.3 million in federal CARES Act funding to help keep voters and workers safe at polling locations throughout the state if voters decide to head to the polls.
RELATED LINK | SC Votes
Chris Whitmire with the SEC provided information on how the federal money will be spent.
Here are some ways the funds are currently being spent:
- Masks, face shields, gloves for poll managers
- Sneeze guards for county offices and polling places
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for polling places
- Cotton swabs for voters to make selections on touchscreens
- Tape for marking out six-foot intervals at polling places
- Additional high-speed scanners for the larger counties
- Curbside carts to allow for social-distancing when poll managers service curbside voters (voters who due to age or disability are allowed to vote curbside at their polling place).
- COVID-19 related signage
- Online COVID-19 related training for poll managers
Whitmire added that the money will also go toward paying poll managers.
“Normally, a regular poll manager would get $60 for training and $75 for Election Day for a total of $135. For June, that has been increased to $75 for training and $90 for Election Day for a total of $165,” Whitmire wrote in an email to WMBF News.
He added that if a manager works a runoff, their pay would increase from $75 to $90 as well.
Whitmire said that they are continuing to work with counties to find additional safety measures that they can take. He also said the SEC realizes they will have COVID-19 related expenses in November and they are taking that into account and determining how to use those funds.
Whitmire added that a continuing resolution, which could get passed this week, authorizes the governor to direct up to $15 million in CARES Act funding to go toward coronavirus-related election expenses.