Supreme Court Requires Change in State's Ballots

High court reinstates South Carolina's witness requirement
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 6, 2020 1:17 AM CDT
Supreme Court Requires Change in State's Ballots
Voters wait in line outside the Richland County election office on the first day of in-person absentee voting in South Carolina on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Columbia, SC.   (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

The Supreme Court on Monday reinstated a requirement that South Carolina residents voting by mail in November’s election get a witness to sign their ballots, the AP reports. Democrats had sought to have the requirement put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Republicans had defended it as deterring fraud. While the high court reinstated the requirement as a lawsuit over it proceeds, voters have already started returning ballots. More than 200,000 absentee ballots have been mailed and 18,000 returned, according to the state’s election commission. The court said 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."

Under current state law, voters returning mail-in ballots swear an oath printed on the return envelope that confirms they are eligible to vote and that the ballot inside is theirs. The oath has to be witnessed by one other person who has to sign below the voter’s signature. Pointing to the pandemic, state and national Democratic Party organizations and several individual voters challenged the requirement and other parts of state election law. A judge blocked the witness requirement before the state’s primary in June. After the primary, state lawmakers made changes to the state’s election law, including allowing all residents to vote absentee in November. But they left the witness requirement in place. A judge late last month put the witness requirement on hold for the presidential election, then a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reinstated it, then the full appeals court put it on hold again before it reached the high court.

(Read more absentee balloting stories.)

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