Because of coronavirus concerns, officials prepare for increase in SC residents voting absentee by mail in primaries

Because of coronavirus concerns, officials prepare for increase in SC residents voting absentee by mail in primaries

KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - John Caughman's priority in the June primaries is to keep Kershaw County voters and poll workers safe from the coronavirus.

"I'm afraid people will say it is not worth it to come out," he said.

He's the director of elections and voter registration in Kershaw County. Caughman and other elections officials are reminding people there are things they can do to protect themselves before they set foot in a polling place on June 9.

Caughman said voters can request absentee ballots.

In South Carolina, if you qualify for absentee voting, you can send your ballot in by mail. County election officials across the state are making a push to remind voters, if they qualify, they can take part in this. They believe this will help protect voters and poll workers from any possible spread of the disease.

"If you know or think you're going to cast an absentee vote and will do it by mail, now is the time to request your ballot," Caughman said.

According to the State Election Commission, close to 40,000 South Carolinians have already requested their absentee ballots for the June primaries. For reference, they said in the 2018 primaries, 19,000 South Carolinians voted absentee by mail. Another 42,000 voted absentee in person. In the 2016 general election, about 140,000 people voted absentee by mail.

They said there could be a large number of South Carolinians voting absentee in June because of coronavirus concerns.

There are more than a dozen reasons someone can vote absentee in South Carolina, according to the State Election Commission's website:

  • Persons 65 years of age or older
  • Persons who are physically disabled
  • Persons attending sick or physically disabled persons
  • Persons who for reasons of employment will not be able to vote on election day
  • Persons who plan to be on vacation outside their county of residence on Election Day
  • Overseas citizens
  • Students attending school outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them
  • Government employees serving outside their county of residence on Election Day and their spouses and dependents residing with themPersons serving as a juror in state or federal court on Election Day
  • Persons admitted to the hospital as emergency patients on Election Day or within a four-day period before the election
  • Persons with a death or funeral in the family within three days before the election
  • Persons confined to a jail or pre-trial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial
  • Persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organizations (USO) who are attached to and serving with the Armed Forces outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them
  • Certified poll watchers, poll managers, and county election officials working on Election Day
  • Members of the Armed Forces or Merchant Marine serving outside their county of residence and their spouses and dependents residing with them
  • Persons who for religious reasons do not want to vote on a Saturday (presidential primaries only)

State Election Commission Director of Public Information Chris Whitmire said, if there is a large volume of voters, voting absentee by mail there could be some slight delays in reporting election results.

"Our current law and the structure of our absentee voting process is really designed for a small subset of people who can't make it to the polls and vote absentee. Our system is designed for the majority of people coming to the polling place," he said.

Any changes to expand absentee voting because of the coronavirus would have to be made by the governor and lawmakers.

Whitmire said the State Election Commission is sending out personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks, to all counties for their poll workers. He also said social distancing will be mandatory at polling places.

Caughman said Kershaw County absentee voters who will be voting in person will be voting at a different location than usual because of the coronavirus. He said absentee voters will be casting their ballots at the Camden City Arena. This will allow them to practice proper social distancing.

Absentee voting begins on May 11 in South Carolina.

For more information on absentee voting in South Carolina click or tap here. You can contact your county election office to request your ballot.

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