Safe Elections 2020 Update

COLUMBIA, SC – The Senate met yesterday, September 2, and passed election reform measures, using the “strike and replace” mechanism that we’ve seen before, using H.5305 as a vehicle. You can read the bill at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/5305.htm.
It was made very clear that this is a Republican caucus bill. Attempts by Democrats to modify it were immediately tabled, one after the other. The amendment apparently reflects negotiations within, but not beyond, the Republican caucus. Votes were straight party-line. It now goes to the House on September 15.
So what is it, in its present form? The answer — an improvement, but a lot less than we have asked for, a lot less than the SEC and SCARE asked for, and in some ways more restrictive than current law.
  • The bill expands eligibility for absentee voting to all qualified electors.
  • It allows opening and examination of outer envelopes of absentee-by-mail ballots beginning Sunday, November 1, at 7:00 AM. This is two days extra before election day, less than is needed.
  • It establishes a schedule for receiving absentee applications of Saturday, October 24, if not submitted by the elector, or Monday, November 2, for electors who appear in person, along with a provision for pickup by an immediate family member for those hospitalized between October 30 and November 3.
  • It requires that absentee-by-mail ballots be returned by mail or delivered personally by an elector or authorized representative to election officials or staff at a central elections office or at a staffed satellite voting office.
  • It establishes October 5th as the start date for early voting.
  • Requires that the SEC conduct an “aggressive voter education program” concerning the election process.
Basically, this sandwiches inadequate or even negative measures between two positive ones. The expansion of absentee voter eligibility and
the voter education program are big pluses. However, the additional time provided to process ballots is insufficient. The explicit requirement that ballots be delivered to election officials or staff eliminates even existing secure election office drop boxes. The bill seems to prevent an earlier start to in-person early voting, which SEC has attempted to put in place. There is no removal of the troublesome — and pointless — witness signature requirement.
We appreciate the positive elements of this bill. However, the restrictive measures and failure to enact other useful changes are built around misinformation, and even intentional disinformation, on election security issues. We hope to encourage the House to moderate these measures when they return on September 15, and we will update in a few days on messaging around this effort and for public education.
Thank you all for everything you have been doing. While the Senate amendment is very disappointing, it is unlikely that we would have any safety measures from them if all of us hadn’t joined together and told senators that the election must be safe, secure, and accessible!

Safe Elections 2020 Update

COLUMBIA, SC – The Senate met yesterday, September 2, and passed election reform measures, using the “strike and replace” mechanism that we’ve seen before, using H.5305 as a vehicle. You can read the bill at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/5305.htm.
It was made very clear that this is a Republican caucus bill. Attempts by Democrats to modify it were immediately tabled, one after the other. The amendment apparently reflects negotiations within, but not beyond, the Republican caucus. Votes were straight party-line. It now goes to the House on September 15.
So what is it, in its present form? The answer — an improvement, but a lot less than we have asked for, a lot less than the SEC and SCARE asked for, and in some ways more restrictive than current law.
  • The bill expands eligibility for absentee voting to all qualified electors.
  • It allows opening and examination of outer envelopes of absentee-by-mail ballots beginning Sunday, November 1, at 7:00 AM. This is two days extra before election day, less than is needed.
  • It establishes a schedule for receiving absentee applications of Saturday, October 24, if not submitted by the elector, or Monday, November 2, for electors who appear in person, along with a provision for pickup by an immediate family member for those hospitalized between October 30 and November 3.
  • It requires that absentee-by-mail ballots be returned by mail or delivered personally by an elector or authorized representative to election officials or staff at a central elections office or at a staffed satellite voting office.
  • It establishes October 5th as the start date for early voting.
  • Requires that the SEC conduct an “aggressive voter education program” concerning the election process.
Basically, this sandwiches inadequate or even negative measures between two positive ones. The expansion of absentee voter eligibility and
the voter education program are big pluses. However, the additional time provided to process ballots is insufficient. The explicit requirement that ballots be delivered to election officials or staff eliminates even existing secure election office drop boxes. The bill seems to prevent an earlier start to in-person early voting, which SEC has attempted to put in place. There is no removal of the troublesome — and pointless — witness signature requirement.
We appreciate the positive elements of this bill. However, the restrictive measures and failure to enact other useful changes are built around misinformation, and even intentional disinformation, on election security issues. We hope to encourage the House to moderate these measures when they return on September 15, and we will update in a few days on messaging around this effort and for public education.
Thank you all for everything you have been doing. While the Senate amendment is very disappointing, it is unlikely that we would have any safety measures from them if all of us hadn’t joined together and told senators that the election must be safe, secure, and accessible!
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