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Supreme Court grants request to require witness signatures on absentee ballots in South Carolina

Supreme Court grants request to require witness signatures on absentee ballots in South Carolina

by WBTV Web Staff  |  Published on October 6, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) – The Supreme Court has granted a request by South Carolina election officials to reinstate the witness signature requirement on absentee ballots. The decision was made pending appeal.

While the high court reinstated the requirement as a lawsuit over it proceeds, voters have already started returning ballots.

As an exception, the court says that any ballots cast before the court’s action Monday evening “and received within two days of this order may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement.”

Officials filed an emergency request last week after a judge overturned the requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots in South Carolina for a second time.

[ S.C. officials file emergency request to require witness signatures on absentee ballots ]

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

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 South Carolina State Election Commission filed an appeal to that decision.

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

Just one day later, that decision was reversed — meaning the signature was not currently required on absentee ballots. But now, with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay, witness signatures are again required on absentee ballots.

“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.

The South Carolina 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.”

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