By Barbara Sloan
On May 8, 1966, a rainy Mothers Day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to a mostly African-American audience in the small town of Kingstree, SC in Williamsburg County. The Williamsburg County Voters League sponsored the gathering of about 5,000 people where King spoke about the importance of voting.
“Let us march on ballot boxes,” said Dr. King famously, as he urged his audience to register to vote. A short video of this historic speech can be found here, along with other information.
A young man named James Clyburn and his wife attended Dr. King’s speech. He said that the speech inspired him and his wife to engage in a lifetime of service. Clyburn went on to become the U.S. Congressional Representative from South Carolina’s 6th District and is currently the Majority Whip.
Horry County Democratic Party
The Horry County Democratic Party (HCDP) honors Dr. King’s historic speech each year with its March in March voting rights campaign, striving to educate voters on their right to vote. “Our goals are to make voting easy and to encourage everyone to take advantage of their right to vote,” said Don Kohn, HCDP chair.
Paraphrasing Dr. King, Kohn went on to say “Voting is the method we must use to achieve freedom and dignity, better education, jobs and brotherhood. So, register to vote and bring ten others to register, vote in every election, support candidates and run for office.”
Registration in South Carolina
All adults in SC other than convicted felons who have not completed their sentences, probation and parole may register to vote. Each county has multiple places to register to vote. In Horry County, the Horry County Board of Voter Registration & Elections is located at 1515 4th Avenue in Conway. In addition, voters may register at the DMV when they get drivers’ licenses or online at scvotes.gov, where more information is available.
Seventeen-year-olds can register to vote if they will be 18 on or before the next election. To vote in an election, a person must register at least 30 days before that election.
Convicted felons who have completed their sentences, probation and parole may register to vote. Proof may be required. See more information below under special circumstances.
Verify Your Voter Registration
After registration, the voter will receive a blue voter registration card. This card will show the voter’s name, address, gender and race, along with the precinct name, polling place and polling address. It also shows the voter’s Congressional district, State Senate district, State House district, County Council district, school district, and Magistrate jury area. If you lose your card, request a new one.
Voters can verify their continuing registration at any time at scvotes.gov by clicking on “check my voter registration.” If a voter does not receive the blue registration card in the mail within one month of registration, the voter should follow up by calling Voter Registration and Elections at (843) 915-5440.
If a voter moves within South Carolina, the voter must submit a change of address. This may be mailed in or presented in-person at the local voter registration office or online. Note that this may result in a new polling place and change in districts. Voters are not allowed to vote at polling places other than the one they are registered for in the rolls, with the exception of the Voter Registration and Elections office.
What You Need When Voting in Person
While it is not necessary to present one’s voter registration card to vote, it is advisable to carry it to the polls in case a voter’s name fails to appear on the poll list.
All voters must show photo identification, such as a driver’s license, in order to vote. HCDP encourages voters to get a free permanent plastic voter ID card at the Horry County Board of Voter Registration & Elections office. Several other forms of photo identification are acceptable.
South Carolina allows 17 reasons to vote absentee. They can be found here, along with applications for mail-in absentee ballots. The most common reasons for absentee voting are being out of state on election day, having to work on election day and being over age 65.
Mail-in ballot envelopes must have a witness signature. Otherwise, they will be disallowed, and not counted.
Voters also may go to the Horry County Board of Voter Registration & Elections office in Conway during regular hours to vote in-person absentee. HCDP considers this the best way to vote absentee, since your ballot cannot be lost in the mail and the witness signature will be provided by staff.
Following a felony conviction, people who have completed their sentence, probation and parole may register to vote. If it is their first time registering, they simply register as anyone else would. If they lost voting rights upon conviction, they must request reinstatement at the Voter Registration and Elections office. The county may request documentation. Call HCDP at 843-488-4237 if you have any difficulties.
People who for any reason may not look like their photo ID are entitled to vote without restriction. This includes people whose appearance may have changed due to illness or accident and those who have changed their gender identification. A person who is on the voter rolls and has photo identification must be allowed to vote.
Each polling place in Horry County offers curbside voting for those who need it. Look for a sign designating the curbside voting area.
Any voter who believes he or she is registered to vote, but who is not on the voter rolls or for whom some other challenge exists, may request a provisional ballot. When voting provisional, resolution of the problem must be completed with the Voter Registration and Election office before or at the certification hearing that is held a few days after election day. If they do not, their provisional ballot will be disallowed by the Commissioners.
Voters can read or download a voter readiness checklist, which is revised before every election, to review the process before they go to cast their ballots. Make sure you are voting on the right day and at the right place.
You can print a sample ballot from scvotes.gov.
Do I have to choose a party?
No. South Carolina does not have registration by party. In primaries, you can vote in only one party’s primary; however, you can vote for any candidate from any party at the general election regardless of which primary you voted in.
New Voting System
The new voting equipment prints a ballot card after the voter has made his/her choices. It is important for the voter to verify the choices by reviewing this ballot before having it scanned. Ask for a replacement ballot should it be in error.
This paper trail allows for a recount of the votes, should it be needed. For more information, visit the HCDP website or call our office at (843) 488-4237.