South Carolina voters received some good news last week when the State Legislature approved a short-term bill that will let all voters request a mail-in absentee ballot for the upcoming primaries.
A combination of the coronavirus pandemic, which spurred multiple lawsuits asking for expanded absentee voting, and common sense prevailed. State lawmakers approved the state of emergency as a reason for voting absentee, and Gov. Henry McMaster signed it the next day.
Previously, absentee ballots could only be cast by voters who aren’t physically able to leave their home, are away from their home county for work or vacation, have to work the entire time polls are open, if they are sick or mourning the loss of a just-deceased relative, or if they are 65 or older.
This decision only applies to the June primaries, but if the pandemic persists lawmakers could extend it to the November general election.
The June 9 primaries are important locally because there are several contested races. Voters will elect several Aiken County officials, including a sheriff and county council members.
Requesting an absentee ballot is easy. There are three simple ways:
• In person, you can visit the Aiken County voter registration office at the Aiken County Government Center and get the ballot.
• Can call the local registration office at 803-642-2028 and request an absentee ballot.
• Visit scvotes.org and download the form, print it out and mail in the request.
When filling out the form, voters just need to select “State of Emergency” to receive the absentee ballot.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the primary is June 5, but officials encourage voters to make the request at least one week in advance to ensure there is enough time to get the ballot in the mail.
“We applaud South Carolina for allowing all voters to seek absentee ballots for its primary,” said Josh Silver, co-founder and director of RepresentUs. “Other states should take steps to protect voters. This is not a partisan issue.”
South Carolina election officials are already seeing an increase in absentee ballot requests. We’ll say it again: In this day of wearing masks and practicing social distancing, those who can vote absentee should do so.
Fortunately, that now includes all eligible voters in South Carolina.
And here’s one more thing state lawmakers can do: Make this a permanent change. There is no good reason, going forward, that voters shouldn’t be able to request absentee ballots.