State Election Commission Director Marci Andino, who is South Carolina’s chief election officer, sent a letter to S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Harvey Peeler voicing her concerns for the November Presidential Election and how Covid-19 may cause an overwhelming issue with absentee ballots and shortage of poll workers.
Andino wrote, “We respectfully ask that immediate action be taken so election officials have as much time as possible to ensure we can rise to the greatest challenge to our election system our state has ever seen,”
Presidential elections have a higher turnout rate of 71%, while non-gubernatorial statewide primaries like back in June only have a turnout rate of approximately 18% of voters.
In June’s election local voting offices experienced serious issues. In Richland County, ballots were missing certain races and had to be handwritten by poll workers on a piece of paper. And due to the lack of poll workers consolidated locations causing voters to stand out in extreme heat conditions in long lines.
“While there were isolated issues, the primaries were successful overall as voters were able to vote in a timely and efficient manner, and election officials were able to count those votes and report totals on election night. However, success in June does not necessarily translate to success in November,” stated Andino.
Andino also expressed a concern that if the virus continues to spread at its current rate there may additional issues such shortage of poll workers and counting the votes in a timely manner. She also voiced a concern as to social distancing at the poll.
Andino sent recommendations such as reinstating the “state of emergency” reason for voters to cast absentee ballots. Andino also asked lawmakers to allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot online, to remove the witness requirement on absentee ballots, allow elections officials to use drop boxes to collect absentee ballots and to allow curbside voting at designated locations instead of at every polling place.
Andino also pushed lawmakers to give local elections officials more time to process mail in ballots or to push back the date that counties must certify elections results.
S.C. Rep. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), said Gov. Henry McMaster should call back lawmakers sooner to address elections concerns.
“In reality, we need to do this now,” said Hutto. Hutto also voted to expand the absentee voting back in June.
Hutto and Andino agree when it comes to making the state of emergency a valid reason to vote absentee. Hutto advocated for creating multiple sites in a county for voters to cast ballots early and allowing voters to request absentee ballots online.
Hutto stated, ““You want to make sure that everyone has access to that ballot box. In the middle of a pandemic, you have to make sure that voting is safe.”