South Carolinians clearly want the option of voting early. State lawmakers ought to give it to them.
South Carolina is among only 16 states bucking the trend of allowing voters to cast ballots before Election Day. The Palmetto State does, however, allow de facto early voting through its absentee voting system.
People can vote absentee at their county offices if they give a reason for not being able to vote on Election Day, such as being on vacation or working. And this year, South Carolinians really have taken advantage of the chance to vote absentee.
Just before Nov. 6, about 376,000 residents had voted absentee, a record and 33,500 more than the previous record set in 2008.
It is silly, however, to ask voters to jump through bureaucratic hoops and limit the early voting to county offices. Other states allow early voting at traditional polling places, and many include weekend voting.
But early voting has been a hard sell in South Carolina.
Since 2009, the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has shot down early-voting bills, saying voters shouldn’t be casting ballots while time remains for revelations about candidates and before campaigns have finished making their cases.
Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as a handful of Republicans, have introduced dozens of early-voting bills. In 2010, both the Republican-controlled House and Senate approved a bill, sponsored by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, to create an early-voting window in the 16 days leading up to Election Day. But the Senate failed to pass a final compromise version of the bill.
Republicans also have resisted early voting because of the perception that it benefits Democrats more.
Democratic grass-roots efforts got many voters to the polls early in this year’s presidential election.
But that isn’t a valid argument against early voting.
Republicans no doubt could be just as successful at getting their voters to cast ballots early if they devoted the time, money and manpower to the effort.
Allowing early voting encourages more people to vote. It’s that simple.
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