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Category: South Carolina (page 1 of 2)

A Proposed South Carolina Bill to Continue COVID-19 Expansion of Voting Accessibility

By: Anna Miller

In February 2021, the South Carolina House of Representatives began to consider several fundamental changes to the voting process through the general reform bill, H. 3822. As the temporary measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have expired, representatives have debated extending and even expanding these measures. Reform proponents argued in support of increasing accessibility to absentee voting, including eliminating the requirement that the absentee voter sign their ballot in the presence of a witness, and then get that witness to also sign the ballot. This bill seeks to codify that change and to further increase ease of access to absentee voting. For example, absentee voters would no longer be required to provide a reason for casting their ballot from outside the state- the bill would completely repeal Section 7-15-320 of the 1976 Code, which provided a list of approved reasons for casting an absentee ballot.

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Supreme Court Overturns Lower Courts’ Rulings on South Carolina’s Absentee Ballot Witness Requirement

On October 5, 2020, the Supreme Court stayed the South Carolina Federal District Court’s September 18, 2020 order enjoining the South Carolina State Election Commission (“SCEC”) from enforcing the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots. The witness requirement refers to South Carolina law that requires another person to witness an absentee voter’s signature on the absentee ballot envelope for the November 2020 general election. The law requires the witness to sign the absentee ballot envelop and provides that noncompliant absentee ballots “may not be counted.” However, the Supreme Court’s order granted a narrow exception for ballots if they were cast before the Court issued this stay and were “received within two days” of the order.

It would have been helpful if the Court’s majority had explained the rationale behind its order, given that it overturned both the district court and the Fourth Circuit, which had refused to stay the district court’s preliminary injunction when it considered the matter en banc. The only rationale in the Court’s opinion was provided by Justice Kavanaugh, who concurred with the majority based on “two alternative and independent reasons.” However, as shown below, Kavanaugh’s reasons alone do not seem to provide adequate justification for issuing the stay.

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U.S. District Court Changes South Carolina Absentee Ballot Witness Requirement

September was an eventful month for South Carolina’s absentee voting laws. On September 16, 2020, the Governor of South Carolina signed into law the state legislature’s bill H5305, which, in effect, permits all registered voters in South Carolina to vote by absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 General Election. On September 18, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, issued a preliminary injunction against the South Carolina State Election Commission (“SCEC”) in Middleton v. Andino, No. 3:20-CV-01730-JMC (D.S.C. Sept. 18, 2020). The court enjoined the SCEC from enforcing South Carolina law requiring another person to witness an absentee voter’s signature on the absentee ballot envelope for the November 2020 general election. South Carolina law requires absentee voters to sign an oath on their absentee ballot envelope in the presence of a witness, who must also sign and provide their address on the ballot envelope. Additionally, Section 7-15-420 of the South Carolina Code provides that an absentee ballot “may not be counted unless the oath is properly signed and witnessed.” Section 6(a) of the recently passed H5305 bill provides that the absentee ballot envelopes will be examined “in accordance with the requirements of Section 7-15-420.”

There are three reasons that the district court in Middleton reached the right result in issuing the preliminary injunction.

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Something Fishy in South Carolina Referendum

By: Chandler Crenshaw

Fish Sandwich

Picture Source Credit: Here

Concern of voter intimidation is not a novelty in politics. When elections may be close, supporters of a proposition may sometimes attempt to influence the election by giving voters an incentive to go to the ballot box for their cause. When these types of allegations occur, they often cause the people to view election results as “fishy”. In South Carolina, a recent school board referendum in Laurens County, situated in the northwest corridor of the state, was fishy. Rather, while the election results were not close, opponents of a failed tax referendum were accused of influencing voters by offering free fish sandwiches to those who voted. Continue reading

Why Was South Carolina’s Voter ID Law Approved in 2012? Will It Remain?

By: Lane Reeder

Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes.  Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required.  The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied.  South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court.

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SC: Loyalty Oaths

The idea of swearing or singing an oath pledging loyalty and allegiance to a person, a place, or even an ideal may seem like a vestige of a bygone era where cold war tensions were high and the threat to the American way of life was constantly under attack, even in our own homes. However, loyalty oaths are still commonplace in the bustling, fast paced world in which we live.  Many loyalty oaths are only required of certain elected officials and government employees so it easy to overlook how prevalent loyalty oaths are and the important role they play both in a historical context and today.

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Right to a Write-In Vote in South Carolina?

By: Lauren Coleman

Greenville, South Carolina, will become the largest municipality in South Carolina to cancel an election this upcoming November.  Mayor Knox White and three members of the City Council are running unopposed and will take office without going through a formal election process.

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Legislative Appointment of South Carolina’s Judiciary: Somethin’ Could be Finer

By Austin Graham

            Among the states, a relative variety exists in the methods employed for selecting state court judges, including partisan elections, nonpartisan elections, gubernatorial appointment, merit-selection systems, and legislative appointment. Out of these, merit-selection systems are the most popular, with over twenty-five states adhering to this process. Judicial elections are the second most common scheme with at least twenty-one states utilizing either partisan or nonpartisan elections to choose their state court judges. The least common system is legislative appointment; only Virginia and South Carolina delegate appointment of the judiciary to state legislators.

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Could Open Primaries Close the Door on Graham in 2014?

by Meredith Weinberg, Contributor

A recent case out of South Carolina is drawing attention to the potential impact of open primaries on election results. South Carolina law does not require voters to formally register with a particular political party in order to cast a vote in a primary. A system in which voters can select the primary they wish to vote in regardless of party affiliation is called an open primary system.  Open primary systems sometimes draw criticism because they can allow voters to engage in so-called crossover voting.  Crossover voting occurs when members of one political party deliberately vote for a candidate they perceive to be weaker in an opposing party’s primary in order to give their candidate an advantage. It is important to note that voters in an open primary system do have to select only one primary in which to vote, so crossover voting naturally removes a voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot for the actual candidate of her choice in her own party’s primary.  Exit polls provide evidence that voters have crossed party lines during primaries in South Carolina. For example, despite South Carolina’s traditionally conservative electorate, nearly 30% of the voters in the Republican presidential primary in 2012 were either Democrats or Independents.  Further, nearly a quarter of the independents chose Ron Paul as their candidate of choice, rather than the eventual winner in the primary, Newt Gingrich. Continue reading

Paper Trail: South Carolina’s Problematic DRE Voting Machines

by Austin Graham, Contributor

Last November, Richland County residents seeking to participate in local elections encountered an unanticipated hindrance at polling stations: stagnant lines of voters unable to cast their ballots because of malfunctioning voting machines. The lines reportedly were so outrageous that some residents had to wait upwards of seven hours to vote. Many voters grew impatient and left polling stations without submitting a ballot. Moreover, the disarray was hardly confined to election day. In the week after polls closed, a court-ordered recount of the election results sparked a back-and-forth legal battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a local or statewide election agency should be tasked with tallying the votes in the recount. The dispute was not settled until the South Carolina Supreme Court intervened, and nearly two weeks elapsed before the election results were finalized. Continue reading

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