Supreme Court: Witness signatures required on absentee ballots

5 mins read
Photo by Bob Sofaly Vernon Kemp, Elections Systems Manager for checks is data print out after simulating a “straight ticket” test to make sure all the systems are up and running correctly for the upcoming general election Nov. 3. According to Kemp, Beaufort County has 56 precincts with 138,141 registered voters on the books. The largest percent with 2,966 registered voters is Bluffton 2C. To date there have been 29,000 requests for absentee mail-in ballots, of which 20,000 have already been mailed out. October 5 is final deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot in Beaufort County.

Updates from local forums and in-person voting

By Mindy Lucas
Photo by Bob Sofaly

On again. Off again. That was the story of the much-deliberated witness signature on absentee mail-in ballots this summer.

But in the latest decision handed down Monday night by the Supreme Court, witness signatures on absentee ballots are now required once again.

The court’s decision reverses an earlier ruling by South Carolina’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively said a signature was not needed.

However, the Supreme Court also ruled that any ballot received in the last two days without a witness signature must be counted.

Wondering who can witness your ballot?

Anyone can, said Marie Smalls, Beaufort County’s director for the Board of Voter Registration and Elections. The law does not specify who a witness has to be.

“Right, it can be anyone,” Smalls said. “So it does not have to be some type of qualified voter or person.”

And don’t forget to sign your own ballot. Ballots require two signatures – yours and that of a witness. While missing signatures have not been that big of an issue so far, Smalls said, it’s still important to make sure your ballot is complete before mailing it back or it could be disqualified.

In-person voting

If you’d rather vote in-person or prior to Election Day, you can also vote absentee at one of the county’s three election offices.

In-person absentee voting began on Monday and will continue through Nov. 2, and as was the case with the primaries earlier this year, voters do not need a reason for voting absentee.

Still, it’s important to remember if you do decide to vote in-person, there could still be a bit of a wait, Smalls said. Lines were long at various precincts throughout the state on Monday.

While she couldn’t say when would be a good time to try and vote, voters have from now until Election Day to vote absentee.

“So space yourself out,” she said. “And bring your patience. We know most people do, and look forward to voting.”

Registered Beaufort County voters can vote in-person absentee at the following offices:

Beaufort

15 John Galt Road, Beaufort

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday

Bluffton

61B Ulmer Road, Bluffton

Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; 2-4 p.m. Monday-Friday

Hilton Head

539 William Hilton Parkway

Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday

Important dates

Two other important dates to keep in mind:

Oct. 24 – Deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail.

Nov. 3 – Election Day, deadline to return absentee-by-mail ballots.

Candidate forums and debates

USC Beaufort’s Center for the Arts and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum for mayor and city council candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

The mayoral forum will be from 6 to 6:45 ap.m. and city council will be from 7 to 8 p.m. USC Beaufort Dean Bob LeFavi will moderate the event.

Outdoor screening will be provided on the lawn at the center, at 801 Carteret Street. All attendees must wear a mask and social distance.

Those interested in watching from home can watch live on The County Channel, at www.beaufortcountysc.gov/the-county-channel, or on the Chamber’s Facebook page.

Also, if you missed the first debate between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, you have two more opportunities to watch.

SCETV and The (Charleston) Post and Courier will host another debate on Oct. 9 with the candidates in Spartanburg, and the final debate is currently scheduled for Oct. 21, though that is subject to change depending on the Senate Schedule, according to the newspaper.

 

Above: Elections Systems Manager Vernon Kemp checks his data print out after simulating a “straight ticket” test to make sure all the systems are up and running correctly for the upcoming general election Nov. 3. According to Kemp, Beaufort County has 56 precincts with 138,141 registered voters on the books. The largest precinct, with 2,966 registered voters, is Bluffton 2C. 

 

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