The historically large turnout of voters for Election Day 2008 resulted in long lines and long delays at many precincts across South Carolina. Before that Election Day, a number of county voter registration offices, especially in the metropolitan areas, were swamped with long lines of persons seeking to take advantage of in-person absentee voting. In seeking to relieve the stress on voters and those who work at the polls, the House passed “no excuse early voting” legislation that would allow voters to cast their ballots as early as five days before Election Day. Appearing on SCETV’s “This Week in the House,” Horry County Republican Alan Clemmons says he is concerned that with a longer period of early voting, all the information on the candidates that a voter may need to make an informed decision may not be available when they cast their ballot early.
“The further away we get from Election Day, the more change circumstances could occur. For example an early voter may find himself caught in a dilemma. ” Gee! I”ve already cast my vote 45 days in advance and I’ve now discovered new information on the candidate I voted for. Can I change my vote? No it’s cast.” Clemmons says he is proceeding with caution because a candidate may not be truly vetted even a month away from an election. “Those are the things that cause me great hesitation in being in favor of a wide open early voting time.”
The State Senate is currently working on legislation that would combine early voting with the photo ID measure. Bamberg County Democrat Bakari Sellers says his main concern is getting as many eligible persons as possible participating in the election process, and voting early even a month or earlier before election day should be their right. “I think that sometimes we get caught up and we need to stop infringing on people’s individual liberty and rights. If they want to vote early, they also have the right to make a mistake. If that is their right to vote 45 days early and they choose to do so, so be it. I think that we have to recognize that people have choices and government should not infringe on those choices.”
(Clemmons, Sellers debate early voting , courtesy SCETV, MP3 6:00)
Clemmons and Sellers -Early Voting
Clemmons says even if early voting becomes a reality in South Carolina, voting by absentee ballot will still be an integral part of the process for many voters, including those persons serving in the military. “Are we going to do away with absentee voting? Of course not. We want to empower every South Carolinian who is eligible to vote exercise that right. If they can’t be there on Election Day we want to provide them an opportunity to cast their ballot. That has now led us to the discussion of ‘no excuse early voting.’ There is a place in South Carolina for early voting.”
Sellers says early voting would end the process of persons having to create excuses at the voter registration office in order to take advantage of in-person absentee voting. “I want to make sure that we get as many people into the process as possible. I want to make sure that everybody that has the right cat fit into this little bowl we call our election time period. I think what we’ve seen in the past elections is that the numbers are going up. We saw long lines in the past election and I want to make sure things are as easy for people as possible.”
Clemmons says the institution of a period for early voting would effectively end in-person absentee voting. ” If we have ‘no excuse early voting,’ providing a period for that to happen, the long lines for in-persons absentee voting go away. I think the need for in-person absentee voting will no longer be necessary.”