Absentee voting opens; new temporary provisions for SC voters

Absentee voting in Laurens County began Monday ahead of the Tuesday, June 9 primaries for elected local, state and national level seats. Now a vote by state legislators Tuesday evening May 12, provides any voter in South Carolina the option to vote absentee for the June primaries and runoffs.

“We were already encouraging absentee voting,” said Lynne West, the director of Voter Registration and Elections for Laurens County, but before Tuesday’s vote the law had not provided for absentee voting because of concern over the pandemic and social distancing.

The general assembly, which returned to Columbia on Tuesday, voted to add the “State of Emergency” as a valid reason on the application for an absentee ballot, and legislators also voted to approve other protocol that makes it safer for voters and safer for election officials and staff.

“This action by the General Assembly and Governor McMaster, which we greatly appreciate, will go a long way in protecting the health and safety of every South Carolinian,” said Marci Andino, Executive Director of the S.C. State Election Commission in a press release delivered Wednesday.  “All voters now have a safe alternative to voting at their polling place in June.”

This decision, however, is only for the primary election June 9 and any potential runoff elections. It is a temporary measure which expires July 1, 2020, and does not apply to any election after that. West said election staff received official word about the change by email Wednesday morning.

“You still have to apply for an absentee ballot, and you still must sign that you meet one of the reasons for voting absentee,” said West. “But everyone in the state of South Carolina is still under the State of Emergency, so every registered voter is eligible during the month of June.”

It is listed as Reason 18 on the absentee application, according to the press release by Andino’s office. He recommends, if voting by mail, that voters request an application as soon as possible  and once the ballot is received, to vote and return it quickly.

If voting absentee in person, the voter should visit the county voter registration office at 200 Historic Public Square, Laurens, and bring a photo ID.

West said for those who will be voting at the polls on June 9, numerous extra precautions will be taken at each of the county’s polls to try and ensure the safety of voters and poll workers, including the required social distancing.

There is a full list of the guidelines for absentee voting and instructions on how to go about obtaining an absentee ballot at scvotes.org/absentee-voting.

Anyone can also call the office of Voter Registration and Elections for Laurens County at 864-984-4431 or go by the office, which is located in the downstairs of the Historic Courthouse , 200 Public Courthouse Square, Laurens.

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