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The November 2020 General Election: Absentee Voting

By Steve Hamelman, et al.

This is the second of two articles explaining the basics of the registration process and voting options available to South Carolinians, with a focus on voters in Horry County.

The first purpose of these two articles is to distill information from the main resource for voters in South Carolina—the South Carolina Election Commissions website at scvotes.gov—and share it with readers, saving them the trouble of looking it up themselves.

The second purpose is to encourage (1) non-registered voters to register, (2) registered voters to make sure they are in fact registered with an address that exactly matches the photo ID they will bring to the polls, and (3) all potential and current voters to locate their precinct’s polling station (125 precincts in Horry County alone).

The Horry County Democratic Party (HCDP) urges you to do 1 and 2 now. The 2020 June Primary saw changes to polling stations throughout Horry County, so complete #3 as close to election day as possible in case of last-minute changes.

Remember that to vote you must be registered at least 30 days before the next election, which is November 3. Please refer to the article The November 2020 General Election: Registration and Election Day Voting for more information on In-Person voting and when to register.

The HCDP wants you to vote safely. We are proud of our 2020 Democratic candidates for local, state and federal seats in the November General Election.

Note: Make sure you stay up to date on any changes to polling stations or absentee voting requirements by visiting the HCDP website between now and election day. Also follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) or signing up for our newsletter as we will be posting any updates as they are announced.

Changes to Absentee Voting for the November 3, 2020 Election

The South Carolina state legislature has approved State of Emergency as a reason to vote In-Person or Mail-In Absentee for the general election November 3 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means anyone registered to vote in South Carolina can vote absentee.

In addition, the elections commission has also approved the opening of three satellite locations, in addition to the Voter Registration office in Horry County for In-Person absentee voters.

In-Person Absentee voting starts October 5 and ends at the close of day at all locations on November 2.

  • Horry County Board of Voter Registration and Elections,1515 4th Ave, Conway, SC 29526, Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm
  • North Strand Recreation Center, 120 State Hwy 57, Little River, SC 29566, Mon-Fri 8:30am to 4pm
  • South Strand Recreation Center, 9650 Scipio Ln, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588, Mon-Fri 8:30am to 4pm
  • Carolina Forest Public Library, 2250 Carolina Forest Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29579, Mon-Fri 8:30am to 4pm

The Voter Registration Office in Conway may have weekend options available. Call (843) 915-5440 to see if they will be open any additional days or hours. Don’t wait until the last day or week to vote as lines may be long.

Upon arrival at the location, you need to state your reason for voting In-Person Absentee and sign an affidavit before casting your ballot. It is not necessary to complete an application in advance to vote In-Person absentee

A photo I.D. is always required when voting in-person, whether it’s absentee or at your polling place. Here is the list of approved photos ID’s.

  • Voter registration card with photo
  • Valid South Carolina driver’s license (either a standard license or a REAL I.D. acquired through the Department of Motor Vehicles)
  • SC Department of Motor Vehicles I.D. card
  • SC Concealed Weapons Permit
  • SC Voter Registration Card with Photo (paper or card)
  • Federal Military I.D. (all Department of Defense Photo I.D.s and Veterans Affairs Benefits Card)
  • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card

As in the polling stations on election day, the Horry County Voter Registration and Elections office is taking every precaution to make in person voting as safe as possible. All staff are required to wear masks and gloves. In addition, hand sanitizer is available for all voters. A clear plastic shield is in place at the check in desk between the voter and staff. All pens and voting machines will be wiped down with alcohol after each voter and social distancing will be enforced. Although it is not required that voters wear masks, we encourage you to wear masks when voting in person either on election day or In-Person Absentee.

Mail-In Absentee

This is the preferred choice for millions of Americans who do not want to risk exposure to the coronavirus. Sandra N. Martin, Registration and Elections Director for Horry County, states:

You MUST fill out absentee applications and send them in. Once we receive the applications back, your ballot will be mailed up to 30 days prior to the election. You can also call the office at 915-5440 and request an application. You can also go online to scvotes.gov and fill out an application and send it in.

HCDP highly recommends that if you are voting by mail you should obtain, complete and return your application NOW. You will need a printer to print your online application. Also remember to sign it before sending it in.

Voters should keep in mind that Mail-In Absentee voting has the most steps and the most rules. Therefore, to be on the safe side, voters should consult scvotes.gov or the Horry County election office right away.

Complete your ballot as soon as it is received from the Voter Registration office. A Mail-In Absentee ballot is the only one of the three voting options needing a witness signature. The voter chooses the witness who will sign on the return envelope’s designated line. There are no criteria for who the witness can be.

Note: if there is no witness signature on the envelope, your vote will not be counted!

Verify that you have followed all of the steps to return your ballot:

  • Place completed ballot in the clearly marked ballot envelope and seal it.
  • Place the ballot envelope into the pre-paid return envelope with the Voter Registration address on the front and seal it.
  • Verify your signature and a witness signature is completed on the back of the return envelope.

You can check the status of your ballot application on scvotes.gov to verify it was received and to know when the ballot was sent. Complete and return your ballot as soon as it is received.  When mailing your ballot back, allow enough time for it to get to Voter Registration before election day or use one of the four drop box locations available for Mail-In Absentee ballots for this election. They are the same locations and hours listed above for In-Person Absentee voting. Drop boxes are only available up to close of day at each location November 2.

The Voter Registration office drop box is located outside while the three satellite locations are inside the buildings. When using the Voter Registration drop box, it is best to drop your ballot packet at least 30 minutes before the close of business to avoid it being in the box outside overnight.

Mail-In Absentee ballots can only be returned to personnel working inside the Voter Registration office, not at any of the satellite locations. Ballot packets can be hand delivered up to 7p.m. November 3.

Note: Mail-In Absentee ballots cannot be returned at your polling station on the day of the election!

If anyone other than the voter returns the ballot to the Voter Registration office or the drop box, they are required to have a completed Authorization to Return Absentee Ballot form signed by the voter. Without this form, they will not be able to leave the ballot. When asking someone to drop it off for you, make sure it is someone you know and trust.

Absentee Advantages

In-Person Absentee is an attractive option this year as there are several locations available. You can vote on a day convenient for you within thirty days of the election; lines may be shorter; risk exposure to coronavirus may be relatively low; and handicapped accessibility will still be available.

Although absentee voting by mail is, in the words of HCDP Chair Don Kohn “cumbersome,” it offers unparalleled safety since voters don’t have to leave home. Technology simplifies the application process.

Whichever form of absentee voting you choose, remember that deadlines loom. Know what they are and be ahead of them so that you don’t forfeit your vote in the November 3rd General Election.

The welfare of the United States of America depends on each and every Democratic vote for candidates who will save the nation from another four years of feckless (to put it mildly) Republican leadership.

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