South Carolina election officials have outlined recommendations for state leaders on what is needed to conduct the Nov. 3 presidential election safely.

In a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster, Senate President Harvey Peeler and House Speaker Jay Lucas, leaders of the S.C. Association of Registration and Election Officials (SCARE) recommended the following measures to be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

– No-excuse absentee voting
– Removal of the requirement that a witness provides a signature to an absentee ballot
– Allow counties to process ballots the Friday before the election
– Allow absentee ballot drop boxes

“We cannot overstate the devastating consequences if the state of South Carolina does not plan now for the November election,” wrote Katy Smith, the group’s president and Isaac Cramer, chairman of the legislative committee. Cramer is also the project officer at the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

In a separate letter to McMaster, Peeler and Lucas, S.C. Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino advocated for the same measures, as well as early voting and curbside voting.

Voting by mail has gained support among 70 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research study, with 67 percent believing the pandemic will disrupt the election. In addition to voting for president, S.C. will elect members of Congress and one senator, with incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham facing challenger Jamie Harrison.

Andino noted that 66 percent of absentee voters cast their ballot by mail in South Carolina’s 2020 statewide primary. Absentee voting was up 213 percent compared to the 2016 statewide primary.

Calls for increased absentee voting and voting by mail come as pandemic precautions are still keeping many people indoors and away from crowds. S.C. allowed no-excuse absentee voting for the primary election in June, but only after lawsuits from the S.C. Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union called for the expansion of absentee voting.

The measure passed by the legislature to allow no-excuse voting expired after the primary. While Andino believes those contests went relatively smoothly due to the expansion of absentee voting, she warned “success in June does not necessarily translate to success in November.”

“With the unique and unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, additional actions are necessary to ensure a safe and efficient election process in November,” she said.

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