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How to Vote in South Carolina’s 2020 Election: What You Need to Know

A man walks out of an absentee voting station after voting
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

En Espanol | South Carolina voters this fall face a big change — a new paper ballot system. The General Assembly has expanded absentee voting due to COVID-19:

  • For the first time in a presidential election, South Carolina voters will receive a paper ballot to insert into the ballot marking device. It will be scanned and inserted into a locked ballot box and can be used for audits or recounts if needed.
  • Voters who apply to vote absentee by mail will receive a return envelope with prepaid postage for the first time. Absentee ballots will be available to all registered voters.

Here’s what else you need to know:

How do I register to vote?

You can register online, by mail or in person. If you have a valid driver's license or identification card issued by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, you can register online at the State Election Commission’s website. If you don't have either ID, download a voter registration form from the site and return it by mail, email or fax to your county Board of Voter Registration and Elections. Or you can register in person at your county board. You must register by Sunday, Oct. 4, to vote in the November general election.

How can I get an absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?

The Governor has signed into law a temporary provision that allows anyone to vote absentee due to COVID-19 concerns. You can request an absentee ballot by filling out an online application and returning it to your county Board of Voter Registration and Elections office by mail, email, fax or in person. The deadlines to apply for an absentee by mail ballot are below.

Deadlines to register by absentee ballot:

  • Applications for absentee-by-mail ballots must be received by your county voter registration office by 5:00 p.m. Saturday, October 24.
  • An authorized representative acting on behalf of a voter who is unable to go to the polls due to an illness or disability may return the application by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 30.

Returning your ballot:

How do I know my absentee ballot is secure?

Absentee ballots must be sent directly to the voter, who signs for it twice, once on the application and again on the ballot itself. The completed absentee ballot must be placed in the “Ballots Herein” envelope provided with the absentee ballot.  That envelope should be placed inside a postage paid return envelope.

When is Election Day? When are polls open?

Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Can I vote before Election Day?

The state only permits voting by absentee ballot before Nov. 3.

What form of identification do I need to vote?

Voters need a photo ID, which can include a state driver’s license, Department of Motor Vehicles ID card, state voter registration card with photo, military ID or U.S. passport. Photo IDs are available free from county Voter Registration and Elections offices and DMV locations. Voters without a valid photo ID should bring their non-photo registration card, which will allow them to complete an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot.

What is being done to make polling places safe from coronavirus?

The state is taking steps to ensure that voting on Nov. 3 is safe. Poll workers will wear masks, face shields and gloves. Voters are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. They will be given disposable cotton swabs to use on the touch screen voting device. At check-in, voters will be asked to hold up their ID instead of handing it to a poll worker. They are also encouraged to bring their own pen for signing the voter list. Learn more about safety measures at noexcusesc.com.

Will I be able to vote in the same place as I always have?

Not necessarily. Fewer election workers may mean combining some polling places. Check with the county board of voter registration and elections or visit the state election commission's website to confirm your polling location.

What are the key races in my state?

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. Senate: Incumbent Lindsey Graham (R) vs. Jaime Harrison (D)
  • U.S. House: All 7 seats

This story was updated on Oct. 6 with more information about a recent Supreme Court ruling. Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this page and check back.

Also of Interest

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AARP is urging older Americans to ask the candidates 5 key questions:

  • Just over half of all older Social Security beneficiaries rely on the program for at least 50 percent of their income. If elected, how will you ensure that current and future Social Security benefits are not cut as part of deficit reduction?
  • Half of the people with traditional Medicare spend at least a sixth of their income on health care. If elected, how will you protect Medicare from benefit cuts, as well as lower health care costs and ensure seniors continue receiving the affordable health care they have earned?
  • COVID-19 has caused death and suffering for too many older Americans who require long-term care. If elected, how will you make sure seniors can access safe and affordable long-term care at home, as well as in facilities like nursing homes and assisted living?
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