By Mindy Lucas
Photo by Bob Sofaly
A record number of South Carolinians are voting absentee, both in person and by mail, according to S.C. Election Commission officials.
In fact, if current trends continue, more than one million voters will have voted before Election Day, the commission recently reported.
With such an unprecedented early turnout, there have been some concerns with the process. Below are just a few brought to our attention by readers:
Returning mail-in ballots
Those wanting to drop off their mailed absentee ballot at one of the county’s election offices, as opposed to mailing those in, may not realize they may still have to stand in line with those wanting to vote in person.
And don’t forget, there are no drop boxes outside of election offices or anywhere else in the county.
That idea was first proposed by S.C. Democrats when taking up absentee voting expansion in September. However, the S.C. Senate eliminated that proposal before passing the bill to allow all voters in the state to cast absentee ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So if you want to return your mail-in ballot in person, you’ll need to go inside one of the county’s election offices to return those.
A pro-tip: Voters may want to try returning those ballots to the Beaufort office between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. or 4 and 5 p.m., said poll managers.
The office is open during that time for regular business but does not start in-person voting until 9 a.m., so if you have a ballot you’d like to drop off, you may want to try doing so during those times.
Another concern it seems is voting curbside and wait times for this option.
But keep in mind, voters who wish to vote curbside have to wait behind those who arrived before them – including those standing in line.
What may be adding to the problem is that some able-bodied voters mistakenly think this option is related to the pandemic, said Chris Whitmire with the state election commission.
“Some people may pull up at their polling place and see this and think, ‘That looks convenient,’ or this is a pandemic provision because it is safer since you don’t have to enter the building, and that is not what it’s for,” he said.
It’s also not a ticket to the front of the line, he said.
In fact, the law states that “any elector who, because of physical handicap or age, cannot enter the polling place in the precinct in which he is registered to vote, or is unable to stand in line to vote, may vote outside the polling place inside a vehicle in the closest available parking area …”
So voters who are able bodied, keep in mind this option is only for those who really need it.
Harrison’s name left off the ballot?
Another concern that seems to be circulating on social media, is that Jaime Harrison’s name is being left off the ballot when voting a straight Democratic Party ticket.
But Whitmire said there is no indication or direct proof that this is happening.
“Jaime Harrison’s name is on the ballot,” he said, adding that his office received a call from the state’s Democratic party after receiving calls from a few concerned voters.
But election officials have reviewed ballots to ensure that Harrison’s name is there.
One theory is that voters may have voted a straight party ticket, then accidentally de-selected Harrison when the screen for Senate came up, he said, not realizing they had already voted for Harrison.
Still, a good of rule of thumb is to always check your ballot before taking the final step of feeding it into the scanner where it is officially counted.
“That is the takeaway,” he said. “You have two checks. One is on the screen and again on the paper ballot, and if one of those is not right you can go back and fix that.”
See something concerning?
Finally, if you see something concerning, make sure to report any issues to a poll worker or manager.
Whether it’s displaying campaign material within 200 feet of your polling place or intimidating or abusive behavior of anyone in line or outside election offices, the best thing to do is to report it immediately, Whitmire said. That way it can be addressed immediately.
You can also call the county’s registration office if you have already left but still need to reach someone with a concern. In Beaufort, that number is 843-255-6900, and in Bluffton it is 843-255-6940.
Above: Campaign signs seem to sprout up in the common area at Ribaut and Depot roads, all with the same message …“vote for me.” With the general election scheduled for Nov. 3, early voting in Beaufort County began Monday, Oct. 19.