How do you plan to cast your ballot in this year’s general election on Nov. 3?
Voting has certainly become a topic of national attention in recent weeks, with some calling into question the security and validity of the process. But local election officials report that voters can and should have confidence in the system, whether voting in person or casting an absentee ballot.
According to Adam Hammons, director of the Berkeley County Voter Registration and Elections Office, his staff is fielding more questions these days about how the process works.
“We’ve definitely picked up our pace for what we would expect this time of year,” he said. “Presidential years are always our busiest, but it seems like each cycle we get busier a little earlier. People are interested…and they want to make sure they’re in and make sure it’s right.”
Some of the confusion centers around mail-in voting, which has been targeted by President Donald Trump and others as potentially fraudulent. South Carolina, explained Hammons, does not mail out ballots in a blanket distribution to all registered voters, as some other states do. In those states, such as Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, you don’t have to request a ballot – it just shows up in your mailbox. In South Carolina, that’s not the way it works. Here, you have two options – vote at the polls on Election Day or request an absentee ballot prior to the election, added Hammons.
“In South Carolina, what we do is absentee,” he said, “because you have to have a reason and you have to request that ballot. That’s really the big difference…And basically, all that application is, is the process of you saying this is my address, this is where I want everything mailed…It gives us that ability to track, so we’re making sure ballots are only going to people who want them, and they’re not just showing up in your mailbox unexpectedly.”
Voters can mail back completed and signed absentee ballots or drop them off in person at the county’s Moncks Corner office, beginning Oct. 5, or at other designated drop off sites.
To request an absentee ballot, you must select from a list of 17 approved reasons, including being over the age of 65, physically disabled, residing overseas, or working on Election Day. You must also be a registered voter. Currently, concern about COVID-19 is not an accepted reason to request an absentee ballot. But Hammons says that could change, if the General Assembly or Gov. Henry McMaster approve it (as they did in June for the state primary elections), when the next legislative session begins in early September.
To request an absentee ballot online at scvotes.org, you must provide your name, address, county of residence, date of birth, and the last four-digits of your social security number. You will then be asked a few additional questions and the site will generate a page you can print out, sign, date, and mail in to your county election office or submit online.
You can also request an application by contacting the Berkeley County Voter Registration and Elections Office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at 843-719-4056. You can track your application at scvotes.org by clicking on “Check my absentee ballot.” Once your application is received and approved, the county will mail you a ballot 30 days prior to the election.
Already, requests for mail-in absentee ballots have surpassed 2016 numbers, noted Hammons. As of last week, more than 8,500 applications have been returned in that category, compared to 6,255 in the 2016 election. To aid voters wanting to drop off their absentee ballots in person, the county has added new satellite locations at libraries in Hanahan and St. Stephen to do so. Both will be open for drop off ballots from Oct. 19-30.
“I expect us to surpass both the in-person and the by-mail numbers, especially with the two new satellite in-person absentee locations,” said Hammons.
Absentee voters technically have until the closing of the polls on Election Day to drop off ballots — and there are systems in place to ensure there is no duplicate voting.
“Once we mail them a ballot, they get marked in the voter registration system as absentee,” said Hammons. “If they show up at the polls, they won’t be able to vote on the machines. There is a provisional paper ballot process that is available if they go…We hold on to that, cross check, make sure they didn’t send one back.”
Those who choose to use the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their ballots will also be well served, said Hammons.
“We have a good relationship with the post office,” he added. “We were on a call yesterday with the state post office folks, they were reassuring us so we could reassure the voters ... My ballot and my wife’s ballot will be mailed because I’ll be working Election Day, so I trust it enough to use it. I do think there is a lot more misinformation out there than there are actual issues.”
Anyone with additional questions about voting in this year’s general election can visit the Berkeley County Voter Registration and Elections website at berkeleycountysc.gov/dept/elections/ or the South Carolina Election Commission website at scvotes.org. For specific information on absentee voting visit bit.ly/3hGZ0gT.
KNOW YOUR BALLOT
(as of Aug. 31 for precints Daniel Island 1, 2, 3, and 4, The Village, Yellow House, and Cainhoy)
These are the races and candidates The Daniel Island News’ research has collected. When final sample ballots are available from the state and county election offices, they will be published.
A * indicates the incumbent candidate.
REPUBLICAN: Donald J. Trump/Mike Pence*
DEMOCRAT: Joe Biden/Kamala Harris
GREEN: Howie Hawkins/Angela Walker
LIBERTARIAN: Jo Jorgensen/Jeremy Spike Cohen
ALLIANCE: Roque Rocky De La Fuente/Darcy Richardson
REPUBLICAN: Lindsey Graham*
DEMOCRAT: Jaime Harrison
CONSTITUTION: Bill Bledsoe
LIBERTARIAN: Keenan Wallace Dunham
LIBERTARIAN: David Weikle
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (1ST Congressional District)
REPUBLICAN: Nancy Mace
DEMOCRAT: Joe Cunningham*
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (6TH Congressional District)
REPUBLICAN: John McCollum
DEMOCRAT: James E. Clyburn*
CONSTITUTION: Mark Hackett
S.C. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (District 99)
REPUBLICAN: Mark Smith
DEMOCRAT: Jen Gibson
S.C. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (District 102)
DEMOCRAT: Joe Jefferson* (unopposed)
S.C. SENATE (District 37)
REPUBLICAN: Larry Grooms*
DEMOCRAT: Kathryn B. Whitaker
LIBERTARIAN: Steve French
BERKELEY COUNTY AUDITOR
REPUBLICAN: Janet Brown Jurosko* (unopposed)
BERKELEY COUNTY TREASURER
REPUBLICAN: Carolyn Umphlett* (unopposed)
BERKELEY COUNTY COUNCIL
REPUBLICAN: Joshua Whitley* (unopposed)
SOLICITOR - CIRCUIT 9
REPUBLICAN: Scarlett Wilson*
DEMOCRAT: Ben Pogue
SOIL AND WATER COMMISSION
Lynn B. Curtis II (unopposed)