Supreme Court Reinstates South Carolina Ballot Witness Rule

Supreme Court Reinstates South Carolina Ballot Witness Rule”

While overturning lower court decisions blocking the requirement, the high court's ruling (pdf) allows for the counting of absentee ballots that have already been mailed in without witness signatures-as long as they are received by state election officials by October 7.

The conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court late Monday largely revived a SC law requiring that absentee ballots contain a witness signature, a Republican-passed mandate that could increase voters' exposure to the coronavirus. More than 200,000 absentee ballots have been mailed and 18,000 returned, according to the state's election commission.

Lewiston City Clerk Kathleen Montejo said that more than 100 people had cast in-person votes by noon and that she had been seeing "really steady turnout" for most of the day.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the order that ballots received within the next two days would be exempt, but after that the witness requirement would be back in effect in SC pending the outcome of the ongoing legal case on the merits. They sent forms to registered voters containing their names, dates of birth, addresses and voter identification numbers already filled in, saying they wanted to make voting by mail easy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Curtas said that the completed ballots must be mailed by October 27. Several local races are on ballots across the state.

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The only deadline for in-person absentee voting is 5 p.m. October 30, which is when municipalities must cease accepting in-person absentee ballots.

The justices are also considering a request from Pennsylvania's Republican legislative leaders to block a decision to count ballots received by mail up to three days after Election Day. "It is time for this federal interference (and resulting voter confusion) to end".

Voters who want to vote in person can also start on Tuesday at the offices of county clerks throughout the state. Under a decision by the Legislature last month, all of the South Carolina's approximately 3 million voters can vote absentee and up to 1 million are expected to do so. Election officials credited the availability of absentee ballots as the primary reason for the record number of total ballots being cast.

The numbers come as OH today begins its 28-day early voting period, said Kathy Meyer, director of the Allen County Board of Elections. Republicans said the SC legislature this year made a conscious decision to leave the witness rule in place, even while expanding mail-in voting because of the pandemic. "There will probably be lines", she said. Statewide, 411,000 of 522,000 ballots were absentee.

"The earlier you do so, the better", said Meyer, noting the stress that will be on the post office to turnaround requests in the days leading up to the November 3 election.

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