Activists, Republicans clash over SC voting rights expansion bill

A bill that would make it easier to vote is gathering more sponsors as Republicans warn of...
A bill that would make it easier to vote is gathering more sponsors as Republicans warn of election security issues.(Live 5 News)
Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 7:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Voting rights activists are pushing for legislation that would greatly expand access to the polls. House Bill 3822 is currently sitting in the House Judiciary Committee.

It has been dubbed the “SC Voter Access” bill.

Along with allowing same-day voter registration, loosening mail-in ballot rules and eliminating the witness signature requirement, the bill would make voting absentee easier and add college identification cards to the list of approved forms of I.D. needed to get a ballot.

Marvin Neal is the leader of the Georgetown chapter of the NAACP. He says these are reforms needed to drive voter turnout and combat voter suppression.

“We are shooting for the highest mark possible which is 100 percent,” Neal said, referring to voter turnout in Georgetown. “Protesting, civil rights, voting rights. . . everything that’s important to mankind to maintain decency and order is under attack.”

Also supporting the legislation is Donald Gilliard with Sweet Gilliard Productions. He says these changes are directly related to new efforts to limit who gets to vote.

“There is absolutely an assault on people’s right to vote. You see it nationally and you see it in this state,” Gilliard said. “It’s an assault and we have to stand up and we have to fight.”

Gilliard and Neal did not speak directly to specific examples of voter suppression in the Georgetown area or in state at large.

Republicans see things differently.

In a statement, SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick says the bill would compromise election integrity.

“Simply put, Democrats’ suggested changes to our voting laws would do nothing but make fraud easier,” McKissick said. “Pushing for mail-in voting, eliminating the witness signature requirement, and removing qualifications to vote absentee are just a few of the demands on their radical wish list. None of those requests should be granted, and we’re wholeheartedly against any bill that would jeopardize the integrity of our elections.”

Meanwhile South Carolina Republicans have introduced a series of bills that would change the rules for absentee voting, polling locations and the purging of voter rolls, all in the name of election security.

“Election security is really a code word to see if we can suppress African American votes, let’s be real,” Gilliard said. “There hasn’t been any fraud in any elections you’ve lived in that any of us know about. That’s just a smoke screen, a diversionary tactic.”

While there have been incidents of election day problems, outright and widespread voter fraud is hotly debated. The Heritage Foundation – a conservative policy activist organization – has lists of documented cases of vote fraud while The Brennan Center, named for liberal Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr., shows the extend of voter fraud is extremely low.

May 8 is the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day.

The Georgetown NAACP will participate in a national “votercade” – a presidential style motorcade of voters – that will conclude with a picnic and voter registration booths.

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