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Early voting in SC primaries open to all registered voters for next two weeks

Published: May. 31, 2022 at 7:33 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2022 at 7:58 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - For the next two weeks, South Carolinians can cast their ballots early for the June primary races.

Tuesday marked the first time no-excuse, early, in-person voting was available to all registered voters because of a new law passed by the state’s General Assembly in the final days of its 2022 legislative session and signed by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this month.

Starting with this primary, the new law guarantees two weeks of early voting before elections, or three days for run-off elections.

For the June 14 primary, early, in-person voting began Tuesday in every county and runs through June 10, not including Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5. Polling places will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early voting for any run-off elections will take place June 22-24 at the same hours and locations as the primaries.

All registered voters will have this early, in-person option, and they do not need to provide an excuse or reason for why they are voting early, as they previously had. However, they do need to bring their photo ID or voter registration card.

Some voters who cast their ballots Tuesday said they appreciated the convenience of early voting after they were able to do it in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Just that I got to do it early and didn’t have to stand in the long lines the day of,” Sheila Werner of Lexington County said, adding she would be on vacation the day of the primary and was glad to be able to vote before then.

Jeremy Jones, also from Lexington County, said he cast his ballot early in 2020 as well and took advantage of the new, no-excuse offering because he wasn’t sure how his new work schedule would mesh with time for voting.

“Giving people flexibility to vote is important,” Jones said. “I think it should be longer than two weeks actually because you never know what comes up before Election Day.”

During this early voting period, South Carolinians will very likely not be casting their ballots at their normal precincts.

The new law allows each county to choose how many early voting sites to open, with at least one required and up to seven permitted.

For this primary, Richland and Florence are offering the most sites, at five each, and in counties with multiple locations, voters who live in that county can vote at any of them.

But more than half of South Carolina’s 46 counties opted to stand up just one early voting location for the June primary.

That includes half of the 10 most populous counties in the state: Greenville, Spartanburg, York, Charleston, and Lexington.

Lexington County’s registration and elections director said their choice came down to money.

“It is pretty expensive to have these early voting locations, so it’ll save the county some money and also let people get used to early voting, so they can come here if they have any problems or if they just want to see how the process works,” Lenice Shoemaker said.

Counties can add, remove, or change early voting sites for future elections, so just because they have one location open for the June primary does not preclude them from having more for the November general election.

Some counties, like Lexington, say they want to open more early locations this fall, when they have more time to plan it out and staff the site, Shoemaker said.

But at least for the first day, having just the one location wasn’t an issue in Lexington County, with voters getting in and out within minutes.

“Very easy, a very quick process,” Jones said.

“I’m sure it’ll get busier as the days go by and we get closer,” Werner added.

While the new law establishes a no-excuse early voting period, it also tightens up qualifications to vote absentee by mail.

Under the new law, voters qualified to receive mail-in ballots include:

  • Voters with disabilities
  • Voters 65 years of age or older
  • Members of the Armed Forces and Merchant Marines of the United States, their spouses, and dependents residing with them
  • Voters admitted to hospitals as emergency patients on the day of an election or within a four-day period before the election
  • Voters who, for one of the following reasons, are unable to vote in person on any day of the early-voting period or on Election Day:
  • Employment obligations
  • Attending sick or physically disabled persons
  • Confined to a jail or pretrial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial
  • Absent from their county for any reason

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