Sam Spence file photo

If you haven’t yet voted early in person, you’re missing something that’s easy and convenient. And it has the added benefit of saving time.

Early voting is easy and quick. This week after checking in with election officials (no line), it took about four minutes to use the voting machine, pick candidates and cast the ballot. Four minutes! 

The experience was awesome, restorative that things can work like they should.

What’s amazing about early voting is the impact it will have on regular voting on November 8. State election officials expect up to 700,000 registered voters — about 40% of those who typically vote — may vote early in person or by mail. In turn, that will reduce the load, burden, confusion and long lines often associated with election day at the state’s 2,000+ precincts.

“Over the first three days, we’re averaging about 43,000 [voters] per day,” said Chris Whitmire, deputy executive director of the State Election Commission. “We expect that to increase prior to election day.  

“If we end up getting an average of 50,000 per day, that would be 650,000 early voters. It looks like about 50,000 will vote absentee by mail, which would give us an estimated total of 700,000 before election day.”

That would make a huge impact, he said.  

“Early voting not only helps voters by giving them more options, but also helps election administrators by spreading the work of processing the voters across 13 voting days (12 early and election day) instead of just one day.”

The state authorized broad early voting in 2020 as an emergency protocol due to the pandemic. It proved to be a game-changer, said Isaac Cramer, executive director of the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

“Election day lines were significantly shorter across the county,” he said. “Voters were able to walk in and out of their polling location without a wait.”

In 2020, some 102,000 people voted early out of almost 221,000 cast that year in Charleston County. Election officials predict similar results this year.

“If that number is true for us where we see over half of the votes have already been cast, voters should have a very quick experience when they go vote on election day.”

But had it not been for the state’s almost forced experiment with early voting, it might have taken a lot longer to put into place, said state Sen. Chip Campsen, the Charleston Republican who pushed early voting measures.

As the 2020 legislative session was winding up that June, legislators realized they needed a way to allow for distanced voting that didn’t clog lines on voting day. Early voting was a solution and passed as a temporary measure as a response to South Carolina’s pandemic state of emergency. And it was a hit with voters and election administrators.

Campsen said many who had concerns about the safety of early voting learned from the experiment.

“That experience, i think, convinced many of the naysayers about early voting that their constituents really liked it and it was the safest way when it comes to any kind of voter fraud — that the he safest way to cast a ballot was in person at a place controlled by election voting officials,” Campsen said.

This year when a new proposal came to make early voting a permanent alternative — so you didn’t have to give an authorized excuse to be able to cast a ballot before election day — it passed with broad bipartisan support.

“It was unprecedented,” Campsen said. “We had the chairman of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party at the bill-signing ceremony. We passed one of the most significant election laws without a dissenting vote in the General Assembly this year. That’s something we ought to be proud of.”

Yes, it is.

How to vote in 2022:  Each county has one or more early voting centers open through Nov. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Centers are closed on Sunday. In-person voting also occurs at precincts across the state on Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.


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