Gov. McMaster signs COVID-19 Absentee Voting Bill

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FILE (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor McMaster on Wednesday was joined by members of the General Assembly during a signing ceremony for the COVID-19 Absentee Voting Bill.

Formally titled H. 5305, the bill was sponsored by State Representatives Mandy Powers Norrell (D-Lancaster), Brandon Newton (R-Lancaster), and Jay Lucas (R-Darlington).

The bill establishes “COVID-19 voting-related procedures for the 2020 general election” and “authorizes absentee voting for all qualified electors residing or voting in an area subject to a declared state of emergency.”

Additionally, the bill establishes timelines important to the election.

The first big date is October 5, when in-person absentee voting is set to begin.

Absentee ballot applications “must be received by the county board of elections and voter registration before: (a) 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 24, 2020, if submitted by mail; (b) 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 30, 2020, if submitted in-person, or by the qualified elector’s authorized representative; or (c) 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 2, 2020, for a qualified elector who appears in person.”

In the event that a voter is hospitalized between October 30 and November 3, “an immediate family member of the qualified elector may obtain an application from the board on the day of the election, complete it, receive the ballot, deliver it personally to the patient who shall vote, and the immediate family member personally carry the ballot back to the board of voter registration and elections.”

Actual absentee ballots must be submitted ” to the county board of elections and voter registration either: (a) by mail; or (b) by returning the sealed envelope containing the ballot during office hours, either personally or by authorized representative with the appropriate form as required by law.”

At 7:00 a.m. November 1, “the process of examining the return-addressed envelopes containing absentee ballots, in accordance with the requirements of Section 7-15-420, may begin.”

Results may not be tabulated until 7:00 a.m. November 3, and results may not be made public until after polls have closed.

The State Elections Commission is tasked with developing a set of protocols to mitigate COVID-19 spread during the election, as well as a voter education program to inform voters and relevant parties of the provisions of the COVID-19 Absentee Voting Bill.

The steps taken in the legislation are exclusive to the 2020 General Election.

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