Election officials push state to expand absentee voting access

VIDEO: Election officials push state to expand absentee voting access

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - During the coronavirus pandemic, election officials in the Lowcountry and statewide are urging lawmakers to expand absentee voting by mail in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus during this fall’s general election.

"One of the big things with the pandemic is that a lot of voters want to vote from home by mail absentee," Isaac Cramer with the Charleston County Board of Elections said. "Currently the law indicates that you can only have one of 17 reasons for absentee."

Cramer is also the legislative chairman for the South Carolina Association of Registration and Election Officials.

This week, the association sent a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster and other state leaders asking for four main changes to the Nov. 3 elections: Expanding absentee voting beyond current restrictions, removing the witness signature requirement, allowing counties to process ballots as early as the Friday before the election and allowing the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.

He says during the pandemic, there's an unprecedented need for absentee voting.

“In Charleston County we already have 22,000 people who have returned an application for an absentee ballot and that is surpassed any numbers we’ve ever had in the history of this office,” Cramer said.

Cramer said election officials hope to reduce the amount of people at polling places during the general election.

Long lines and large crowds are things voters Vince Fabra and Jennifer Goodall said could deter others from showing up during the pandemic.

"I still felt unnerved voting in June in person," Goodall said. "No one should be suppressed because of this illness that we are dealing with."

“It seems like there might be some long lines and a lot of people which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid right now so, maybe voting in by mail or voting early would be the right decision for us in November,” Fabra said.

With tens of thousands of people expected to cast their votes by mail, Cramer said election officials need to start preparing for November now by hiring staff, buying equipment and putting in new protocols for a safe and effective election.

“We can’t just go into the election 30 days prior and have all these changes and expect to implement them perfectly,” Cramer said. “We need to plan for our future for South Carolina, our elections right now.

For more information on current absentee voting rules, visit the South Carolina Election Commission’s website here.

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