South Carolina governor signs election legislation, other bills

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 2:08 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster continued a flurry of bill-signings on Wednesday, approving new election legislation.

He was joined at a ceremonial bill signing by a bipartisan group of House and Senate members – along with the leaders of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties.

The law establishes an early, in-person voting period before elections — which will be available in every county to registered voters, without them needing an excuse or reason to vote early.

The new law also tightens up qualifications for mail-in ballots, gives election workers more time to open mail-in ballots, and makes voter fraud a felony, among other changes.

The bill passed both legislative chambers without a single vote against it.

“When you can have the Democrats and the Republicans in the House and the Senate all agree on something, to quote Gov. McMaster’s predecessor, ‘It’s a great day in South Carolina,’” said Sen. Josh Kimbrell, R-Spartanburg.

Trav Robertson. South Carolina Democratic Party chair, said:

“Allowing us two weeks of early voting sends a clear message that South Carolina wants to continue to make sure that our elections are run above board, above and beyond reproach, but most importantly, they run effectively and efficiently.”

With this law now in effect — two weeks of early, in-person voting will be offered to all registered voters in South Carolina for the upcoming June primary — starting May 31.

Other bills signed recently

Earlier this week, McMaster signed the “Save Women’s Sports Act” into law.

Student athletes from elementary to college will be required to compete in events based on their gender assigned at birth. It prohibits transgender women from competing in women’s sports.

McMaster posted on Twitter that he was proud to enact the proposal to protect young men and women.

Opponents of the law say it singles out students who aren’t elite athletes but are just looking for a way to be a regular student.

The SC United for Justice & Equality coalition vowed it will explore “every possible option” to secure dignity and equality for transgender youths in the state.

Ivy Hill of the Campaign for Southern Equality said: “It pains us to see lawmakers in South Carolina, and now the governor, ignore the voices of thousands of South Carolinians – including parents, medical providers, students, faith leaders, and transgender people ourselves – who expressed loudly and clearly that this bill will harm young people in our state.”

Another bill signed by McMaster will give state employees six weeks of paid leave after giving birth. Co-parents get up to two weeks of paid time off. State employees adopting a child or who have a foster child placed in their care will be eligible for two paid weeks’ leave.

“We’ve worked for years to see this bill come to fruition and it will greatly help us to recruit and retain talented employees, improve morale, and show our appreciation to these public servants,” the governor tweeted.

The benefit doesn’t apply to public school teachers as they are employees of school districts, not the state.

On Friday, he signed legislation to exempt veterans in South Carolina from paying state income tax on military retirement benefits.

South Carolina now joins 35 other states that provide full state tax exemptions on those benefits. Previously, Veterans received a partial tax exemption if they’d served 20 years.

Also on Friday, he signed into law an election reform bill that will establish early in-person voting for South Carolinians and restrict voting by mail.

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