More than one million South Carolinians have voted early in 2020 – either by mail-in ballot or in-person absentee voting, according to a release from the S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.gov).
Election officials are now projecting that as many as 1.3 million Palmetto State citizens could cast ballots prior to November 3 – which would more than double the previous record of 503,000 set four years ago.
All told, 1,105,000 absentee ballots have been issued – including 464,000 issued by mail. Of those, 371,000 ballots have been returned by mail – while another 642,000 South Carolinians cast absentee ballots in person at their local election headquarters.
That’s as of 12:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 28, 2020.
The previous record for returned mail-in ballots was 133,000, set in 2016. Meanwhile the previous record for in-person absentee voting was 370,000, also set four years ago.
In-person absentee voting will be available until 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, November 2, 2020 – the day before the election.
South Carolina turned out a whopping 76 percent of its eligible voters in 2008 – the current turnout percentage record. If that total is matched next week, upwards of 2.7 million South Carolinians would cast ballots this election cycle.
Half of them early … potentially.
Frankly, we believe turnout will exceed 2008 levels.
How will all of these ballots be counted? We reached out to election officials on Wednesday afternoon to get a sense of the process that will be followed on the evening of November 3.
“In-person absentee (votes) are like to be reported first, then results from precincts,” one official told us. “Mail-in absentee (votes) will be reported incrementally by larger counties and as-completed by smaller counties.”
Apparently, the type of ballot scanner used is what determines the speed at which the mail-in ballots are counted.
Critics of voting-by-mail – including U.S. president Donald Trump – have argued the practice enhances the likelihood of voter fraud. And there is some evidence to support that contention. According to data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), between 2012 and 2018 a staggering 28.3 million mail-in ballots were “unaccounted for.”
Previously, a bipartisan 2005 report (.pdf) from the Commission on Federal Election Reform – which was chaired by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and former U.S. secretary of state James Baker – concluded that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
Earlier this year, in fact, we reported on South Carolina ballots (blank ones, thankfully) that were discovered … in Maryland.
Our view? We have consistently argued that voting by mail has the potential to be safer than voting in-person.
“Assuming adequate safeguards are in place, we have no issue with mail-in voting,” we wrote earlier this year. “In fact, depending on the requirements imposed at the state level we believe it could actually wind up being more secure than in-person voting.”
Specifically, mail-in voting could conceivably provide a more definitive “paper trail” in the event electoral irregularities are alleged.
Sadly, South Carolina’s requirements are not robust – especially in light of recent rulings that compel ballots to be counted even if signatures do not match.
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