S.C. bill says voters who choose to vote from home during pandemic should be able to

South Carolina Statehouse
South Carolina Statehouse(WRDW)
Published: May. 12, 2020 at 7:56 AM EDT
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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- Some lawmakers will be pushing for changes to the state’s absentee ballot process when they return to session today.

A bill being introduced in the House says there should be some adjustments made to protect voters amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

There are several options a voter can choose from as an acceptable reason to vote absentee. Right now, a pandemic is not one of those reasons. Some lawmakers say it should be. So, they’re looking to make that change with this new bill.

Rep. Wendy Brawley of District 70 is one of the co-sponsors of the bill being introduced to state lawmakers, Tuesday. She says this change in law would allow more people to take part in the election process from the safety of their homes during a pandemic or state of emergency.

If passed, this bill would also eliminate the current requirement for a witness on each returned absentee, if there is an ongoing pandemic.

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the State Election Commission and Governor Henry McMaster expressing some of these same concerns with the absentee voting process in South Carolina.

Representative Brawley says, “The director for the Election Commission here had actually sent legislators a request outlining some concerns that they had and one of the things that they really wanted us to address was absentee voting. The Election Commission needs a change in the state law or we need the courts to intervene and quite frankly, we as lawmakers, we know the risks involved with the pandemic. We know that most of the people who are manning our polling places are in the at-risk category. They’re 60 plus and older.”

The representative goes on to say it would be irresponsible of lawmakers not to take action to protect voters. She says this is an issue that could not only affect voters in the upcoming June 9 primary, but maybe, also in the presidential election this November, and possibly any other time in the future.

The governor’s office has said these changes cannot happen without the General Assembly changing the law. Representative Brawley says the plan is to do just that, and quickly.

“The governor has been pretty clear on this and he has said repeatedly that he sees no reason to postpone the election on June the 9th for the primary, but what he has also said is that he hasn’t the authority to change state law and that if the legislature wants to change the requirements for an absentee ballot, they would need to do that. So, this particular bill is an attempt on our part to do our job of changing the law and protecting our citizens while giving them the option to safely vote,” said Brawley.

The Democratic representative says this is not a partisan bill, and that she’s hoping to get bipartisan support once it’s introduced on Tuesday.

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