SOUTH CAROLINA COULD REJECT A RECORD NUMBER OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS

SOUTH CAROLINA COULD REJECT A RECORD NUMBER OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS

Voting rights groups warn that mixed messages around a witness requirement and a new bar on ballot curing could lead to disenfranchisement.

TWO RECENT DECISIONS related to the upcoming November elections in South Carolina, where a race for U.S. Senate is tightening, could have the combined effect of disqualifying a record number of absentee ballots, according to voting rights groups involved in ongoing litigation. 

On October 5, the first day of early voting in South Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a rule requiring state voters to have a witness sign their ballot; the long-standing rule was temporarily suspended during the February primary, as local judges found it put an undue burden on voters unable to have someone sign their ballot during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Two days later on October 7, the State Election Commission voted to bar election officials from ballot curing, the process of notifying voters of issues with ballots received without a witness signature. The decisions combined mean that any ballot received after October 7 without a witness signature won’t be counted, nor will voters be given the chance to fix the omission before election officials begin counting ballots on the morning of November 3, Election Day.