Politics Explained: How to vote by mail in SC

Politics Explained: How to vote by mail in SC
(Source: Adam Mintzer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - President Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted about “mail-in ballots,” but is the President referring to the voting system we have in South Carolina?

While there is a system for mailing in votes in South Carolina, the SC Election Commission draws a distinction between the various types of remote voting.

“In South Carolina, we don’t have vote by mail, we have absentee by mail,” Chris Whitmire, SC Election Commission Director of Public Information said.

To vote absentee, voters must meet one of 18 different criteria. Whitmire said the most common criteria voters select is being 65 or older, having a chronic illness or disability, needing to work on election day, or planning a vacation for election day.

Voters are not obligated to prove they meet the criteria they chose, Whitmire explained. However, he said voters need to "swear [they] meet the reason selected."

In the June primary, SC voters were able to select a 19th reason, which allowed all registered voters to vote by mail because of COVID-19. It is not clear if the state lawmakers will renew that extra criteria for the November election.

If the absentee application is accepted, voters will receive a ballot in the mail.

Whitmire said that the ballot should be mailed back more than one week before November 3 to ensure it is counted in a timely fashion.

But, the most efficient way to vote absentee, according to Whitmire, is to vote absentee in person.

Voters who feel safe going to their county voter registration office, or an extension office, can apply and vote in one visit starting September 28 until November 2 at 5 p.m.

Whitmire said a few west coast states like Oregon and Washington have a system he refers to as vote by mail.

Under that system, all registered voters are mailed a ballot, with no application needed, and just need to send back their vote by mail or drop it in a dropbox.

The third system for mail-in voting is "no excuse absentee," as Whitmire calls it.

Under this system, all registered voters are allowed to vote absentee, but still, need to request a ballot.

Whitmire said voters in S.C. who believe they qualify for absentee by mail or absentee in person can find the form to apply at scvotes.org and can submit their application.

He said voters who are approved, can expect to receive their ballots sometime in early October.

Whitmire said if voters have any questions most of the answers can be found here or they can contact their local election commission.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.