The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill this week supported by Republicans which creates a nine day window for no-excuse-needed early voting. But Democrats oppose the bill, saying it limits a method people are currently using to vote early right now.
State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) says the proposal would expand voting in South Carolina. “Changing from a model of having one day of no-excuse elections in South Carolina… to nine days is a major sea change,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. Early voting would be available for two Saturdays before an election, under the bill sent to the House floor on Tuesday.
But it would also end the hybrid form of early voting currently known as “in-person absentee.” This process allows a person to cast an absentee ballot at their local election office up to 30 days before Election Day. Rep. James Smith says, by eliminating that, Clemmons’s proposal is hardly expanding the vote.
“No matter how you might look at the sky and say it’s green, it’s never going to be green,” Smith told South Carolina Radio Network. “The facts are it isn’t an expansion. (Rep. Clemmons) is taking away more days for fewer days.” Smith said those voters who were more likely to use in-person absentee ballots were also more likely to vote Democratic, citing returns in his home city during the 2012 election.
The bill would not affect mail-in absentee ballots, such as those sent out to active-duty military members serving overseas.
In order to vote absentee, a person must give 1 of a possible 18 reasons why they cannot head to the polls on Election Day (have to work, traveling, etc.,). But Clemmons said he worries that voters abuse the “in-person absentee” system by creating false excuses. He said he believes some groups are mobilizing residents to improperly vote early.
Meanwhile, a Democratic proposal that would allow early voting up to 30 days before Election Day is currently being held up by Republicans in the Senate. Sources say a deal to bring the measure up for a vote collapsed three weeks ago, leaving the future of that particular proposal uncertain for now. It’s also unlikely the Senate would have enough votes to push through the House version.
Clemmons said he does not agree with a month of early voting and will only support the concept if “in-person absentee” is eliminated. “I’m only willing to go there if we do away with this hybrid form of absentee voting that is reportedly being abused throughout the state,” he said.
His sentiment is echoed by other Republican leaders. On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee approved an amendment that would expand the bill’s original 7 days of early voting to 9.