State election commission supports early voting for future elections

S.C. election officials support future early voting

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - More than 850,000 people voted absentee in-person in South Carolina, more than doubling the previous record set in 2016.

This was the first year all registered voters were eligible to vote before the election, and many across Horry County took advantage of the opportunity.

Some voters said they were off from work Monday, the final day of absentee, in-person voting in South Carolina. Others said they had other plans on Election Day, while some just wanted to avoid potentially longer lines on Tuesday.

“I can’t even imagine, with all the people who’ve come out, how doing it all on one day would work," said Judy Bowns, who voted in person on Monday.

Under normal circumstances, they’d have to meet at least one of 18 requirements that limit the option to people in the military, people over 65 and those with disabilities among a few other small demographics.

The state legislature added “State of Emergency” to that list for this election due to the coronavirus pandemic, so this is the first year that many of those people have been able to vote in person ahead of Election Day.

Several voters who spoke to WMBF News said they aren’t ready to give that up after this year, and the South Carolina State Election Commission is hoping they don’t have to.

“In today’s world, trying to figure out how to cast your ballot during a 12 hour period on one day just doesn’t compute with a lot of people," said commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire.

Whitmire says the commission has supported early voting for years, but it would take a bill from the State House to make it the norm.

He says this year the state is actually doing “no-excuse absentee in-person” voting as opposed to true early voting, which is what’s slowing down the lines so much.

At the South Strand Recreation Center, for example, voters said they waited almost three hours to fill out their ballot within the past week.

“We could move people through lines a lot faster if we had true early voting," said Whitmire. "A voter could go in and vote more like they do on Election Day and not have to do this application process through our statewide voter registration system.”

The state legislature bill that passed through only applies to this election, which means the rules will revert back unless a new bill is introduced.

“I think lawmakers will probably see what turn-out was in absentee this year and will have to seriously look at what kind of option we’re going to give voters in the future," said Whitmire.

Whitmire added making early voting the norm would help with messaging around elections since South Carolina is sandwiched between two states, North Carolina and Georgia, that already have early voting.

Copyright 2020 WMBF. All rights reserved.