SC officials file emergency request to require witness signatures on absentee ballots

SC officials file emergency request to require witness signatures on absentee ballots
This doesn't mean witness signatures are back on the ballot, but now the appeal goes to the Supreme Court. (Source: Storyblocks)

IMPORTANT NOTE -- Since this report, it has been decided that witnesses signatures ARE REQUIRED for absentee ballots in South Carolina. Any absentee ballot submitted after Oct. 7 must have a witness signature.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina officials filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots.

This week, a judge overturned the requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots in South Carolina for a second time.

That new ruling was handed down Sept. 25, according to the South Carolina Elections Commission. It means a witness signature is not required on absentee ballots returned by mail in the state.

The new emergency request does not mean witness signatures are back on the ballot, but now the appeal goes to the Supreme Court.

Here’s a breakdown of how we got to this point:

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed an expansion of absentee voting that will allow any South Carolinian to vote absentee citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

A short time later, a federal lawsuit was filed asking for the required witness signature on an absentee ballot to be waived due to coronavirus concerns.

Saturday, Sept. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs decided to waive the signature requirement for the November election.

But the following Tuesday, Republican lawmakers and the state election commission filed an appeal to that decision.

The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the appeal Thursday, Sept. 24, reinstating the witness signature requirement.

Just one day later, that decision was reversed -- meaning the signature is not currently required on absentee ballots.

The elections commission says the court case is ongoing and is subject to change.

“We are seeking quick resolution of the matter to alleviate confusion and provide voters with clear instructions as soon as possible,” state election commission officials said in a statement. “The SEC will continue to notify the public of any changes to the witness requirement through the media and at scVOTES.gov.”

Republicans have cited concerns over election security as the reason they want the signature requirement to remain in place.

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