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S.C. in-person absentee voting draws long lines on first day

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 4:38 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - From the Lowcountry to the Midlands to the River Region, there were long lines at the polls in South Carolina for the first day of in-person absentee voting.

In just the first several hours Monday, 10,000 people cast their ballots, election officials say.

Voters may cast their absentee ballots in person from now until 5 p.m. Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.

Some people who voted in Richland County on Monday told WIS they waited in line for two and a half hours.

“This election is probably the most important election in my lifetime,” said Sammie Alexander.

When asked why he didn’t want to mail in his vote, Alexander said: " I just don’t trust that right now because there is too much mess going on with that. I think standing in person is probably the best way...but today I was so fired up to come here. I couldn’t wait to get here."

According to the South Carolina Elections Commission, mailing in votes is safe, but they’re aware voters have concerns.

“USPS places a high priority on moving election mail through the system efficiently and accurately.  We feel voters can trust USPS to deliver their ballots,” said Chris Whitmire, director of public information for the South Carolina Elections Commission.

However, few voters were as dedicated to casting their ballot on the first day of in-person voting as Shige Kobayashi. Kobayashi was the first person to vote in-person in Richland County and spent the night outside the Richland County Elections and Registration Office to claim that title.

“I grew up in the ′90s and the 2000s and it wasn’t uncommon to see people camping out for electronics on Black Friday sale. To camp out for concert tickets, or a new iPhone. I thought it would be interesting to bring that same energy to something that was civically important like voting,” Kobayashi said.

He kept people updated with his experience on Twitter and Instagram @1stvoter and said people would see his posts and visit him throughout the day and night.

But early Monday morning, Kobayashi wasn’t alone.

There was also a line out of the door of the Lexington County election office Monday morning.

The state record for total in-person absentee ballots is about 360,000, which was set during the 2016 general election.

Voting by mail

Absentee voting by mail is also underway.

To vote via mail, people must request an absentee ballot be sent to them. Those ballots must be returned by Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. -- the time at which polls close in South Carolina on Election Day.

If a voter requested an absentee mail-in ballot, but doesn’t have time to send it back through the mail, those may be dropped off in person at county election offices.

Here are more frequently asked questions about voting absentee:

Q. Do I need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot?

A. No, any registered voter may request an absentee ballot without an excuse.

Q. Do I need a witness signature to return my absentee ballot?

A. At this time, a court has ruled you do not need a witness signature on your absentee return envelope for your ballot to count. ***However, it is possible this court ruling could change. The safest practice at this time is to have your signature witnessed. The public will be notified of any changes to the witness requirement through the media and at scvotes.gov.

Q. Do I automatically receive a runoff absentee ballot if I vote absentee in an election?

A. No. It has to be requested.

Q. Can I check the status of my absentee ballot?

A. Yes. Visit www.scvotes.gov and click “Check My Absentee Ballot”.

Q. If I receive my absentee ballot by mail, do I have to return it by mail?

A. No. You may drop your ballot off at any satellite absentee location or at 2020 Hampton St., Columbia, SC 29204.

Q. What do I do if I do not receive my absentee ballot?

A. You may visit our office at 2020 Hampton St. or one of our other In-Person Absentee Locations to vote. Please let the poll worker or staff member know you did not receive your ballot in time to mail it back.

Q. Will there be drop boxes?

A. No, but you may drop your ballot off at any satellite location.

Q. Will I have to stand in line with voters in order to drop off my ballot?

A. No. Inform an election worker that you are there to drop off your ballot.

Q. Will postage be required to return my absentee ballot by mail?

A. No. The postage is prepaid on the ballot return envelopes.

Q. Can someone else drop off my ballot?

A. Yes, but the voter MUST complete and sign the yellow Authorization to Return Ballot form included in the absentee ballot packet.

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