COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than 4,000 votes in South Carolina weren’t counted in the 2020 General Election because of voter error.
The vast majority were missing a witness signature.
The South Carolina State Election Commission sent WIS two data sets on uncounted ballots due to voters failing to meet the mail-in requirements. These included not having a witness signature, failing to sign the voter oath, and failing to mail the ballot back in time.
The data sets are from the 2016 and 2020 General Elections.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what the 2020 election shows:
- In total, 4,371 mail-in absentee ballots were not counted
- Of that number, 3,127 ballots were missing a witness signature
- 462 ballots did not have the voter’s oath signed
- The remaining 782 were not returned on time
The number of ballots that were not counted climbed by 1,417 over 2016 (2,954 ballots).
However, the percentage of ballots that were not counted dropped in 2020.
The South Carolina Election Commission reports that in 2016, 133,000 absentee by mail ballots were returned, with 2,954 not counted. That represents 2.2% of the ballots.
In 2020, 441,000 absentee by mail ballots were returned with 4,371 not counted. That represents 0.9% of the ballots.
State Election Commission Director of Public Information Chris Whitmire said the improved percentages were in part due to the high-profile coverage of South Carolina’s witness signature requirement.
A series of court decisions contradicted each other through the early fall before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the witness signature requirement could remain in early October.
“Never before has so much attention been placed on this rule. I think that has had a positive effect overall,” Whitmire said.
He went on to state: “They knew about it because everybody was talking about it.”
The percentage of ballots without a witness signature dropped from 1.18% in 2016 to 0.7% in 2020.
ACLU South Carolina Legal Director Susan Dunn acknowledged the attention on the witness signature requirement improved public understanding.
However, she expressed frustration with the witness signature requirement.
“We don’t believe that it adds anything to the integrity of the ballot, and there it’s really unfortunate 3,000 people lost their vote when these were otherwise valid votes,” she said.
She went on to state: “Any vote that’s lost for a stupid reason is just not anything the state can really justify.”
League of Women Voters South Carolina Vice President Lynn Teague said the league would like to see a way for voters to “cure” or fix their ballots.
However, she did express relief with the falling percentages.
“We were very concerned all along that the ongoing court actions, while we felt they were necessary, would confuse voters so much that the percentage might go up,” she said.
Whitmire said the commission did not have a stance on witness signatures, and that it was an issue for lawmakers.