Columbia, SC — For the second time in two years, the Senate has passed legislation to make voting easier and more accessible. Using procedural moves to leapfrog the usually slow Senate calendar, we passed early voting by a vote of 34-5. This was a true bipartisan effort to make early voting a reality in South Carolina
S.4 provides a 10-day early voting period, including two Saturdays; counties may establish up to three early voting centers. This bill does nothing to change absentee voting procedures.
Making voter registration and participation more open and accessible is critical to our democratic process, and it has been a passion of mine. You may recall the 1993 motor voter law that made voter registration available at Department of Motor Vehicle offices. Today, voter registration forms are also available on-line for eligible citizens.
Our state’s absentee law recognizes that not everyone is able to vote on Election Day. But true early voting is something our state has been lacking, even though 35 states allow it. Washington state and Oregon have even moved to exclusive mail-in ballots.
We saw the need to reform our voting process last year. Long lines on Election Day were seen all across South Carolina. A study released this month by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed South Carolina had the fourth longest waiting time last year; early voting would change that ranking.
We’ve seen our absentee voting procedures change to reflect the needs of voters. Disabilities, age, employment obligations, child care and family concerns are just a few factors that may affect a citizen’s ability to cast a ballot in person. Early voting opens a window of time to give voters more flexibility in having their voices heard, especially with the ability to vote on Saturdays.
Many big hurdles remain to make voting participation easier. Some members of the House have introduced legislation to institute a shorter early voting period, while placing more restrictions on who is eligible to vote absentee.
The House has an opportunity to adopt the Senate’s plan for open and accessible voting. I urge my fellow lawmakers to join me and the Senate in making participation in our democracy for more South Carolinians a real priority.
Sen. John L. Scott