COLUMBIA, S.C. – Georgia isn’t the only state that has considered new election-related laws this year.
Two bills have passed key hurdles in the State House that would change voting laws in South Carolina and change who oversees elections.
A bill that passed the House would require that election laws in all South Carolina be the same across all counties. Another bill that is set to be debated in the Senate this week would give Senators the ability to approve or reject the governor’s appointments to the State Election Commission.
While the governor has expressed the recent elections in South Carolina were secure, he still believes there are potential threats to the integrity of future elections.
“When I was in the U.S. attorney’s office, we prosecuted voter fraud. 30 individuals were convicted…and it’s all centered around absentee ballots,” Gov. McMaster told reporters Tuesday.
Absentee voting was expanded in South Carolina for the 2020 elections because of the pandemic, but those changes have expired.
With control over the governor’s office and both chambers in the State House, Republicans have an opportunity to change election laws in the state, but they all don’t agree on one bill yet.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said the bill moving through his chamber adds more oversight over elections.
“Right now, you have one person essentially in control of the elections and we think it is important to have more voices in that process. And there has to be some accountability. And we think there has been frustration that there hasn’t been much accountability,” Massey said. “All we are asking to do is treat the Election Commission like we treat every other state agency,” he added.
The governor opposes this bill and called it, “a power grab for no reason.”
Massey said the people appointed to lead the SEC are important and have the ability to enforce and support state election laws or not.
However, the governor supports the House bill that would give the State Election Commission the authority to decide on election rules in counties across the state.
Senate Democrat Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said this House bill ignores the individual needs of counties across the state.
“I think one size doesn’t fit all,” Harpootlian said.
Harpootlian also said the governor’s desire for uniformity across South Carolina goes against his opposition to the sweeping election reform bill that recently passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1.
On Tuesday, McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke out against H.R. 1. and said if it were to become law it would pose a threat to the integrity of South Carolina elections.
“[It’s] the biggest power grab in the history of the country,” Graham said.
The lone Democrat representing South Carolina in the U.S. Congress, Rep. James Clyburn, is fully supportive of H.R. 1.
“H.R. 1, the For the People Act, makes our elections more free and more fair. It ensures that every American’s voice is heard and honored and that every vote will be counted. It prevents discrimination in congressional redistricting that dilutes minority voting power. And it restores integrity to elections by ending the influence of big, dark, special-interest money,” Clyburn wrote in a statement.
Senator Graham was not opposed to passing legislation to change laws surrounding “dark money.”
However, he said the rhetoric surrounding H.R. 1, which Clyburn says will, “repair these longstanding faults that strip power and justice from communities of color,” and the elections bill that recently passed in Georgia bill relating to how it treats minority communities are untrue.
“This is an effort by the left, to paint any opposition, the Southern Poverty Law Center included, that you are a racist. It is not going to work. This is 2021. Count me in for robust voting, count me, and for everybody being able to go around. Sure, I’ll make sure they do it without cheating. That’s what this is about,” Graham said.
In a recent report, the Southern Poverty Law Center writes, “In the Deep South, Black, Brown, and Indigenous voters face a series of racist, systemic barriers to voting,” but does not call Graham or other lawmakers racist for their responses to H. R. 1.