Speaker seeks same election rules in South Carolina counties
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s House Speaker said the 2020 elections in the state were run “exemplary,” but wants to make what he thinks is an important change before the system gets tested by a close or controversial election.
Speaker Jay Lucas made a rare appearance Thursday before a subcommittee to explain the bill he is sponsoring that would require counties to follow the state standards in checking absentee ballots and other election matters.
There have been a number of bills filed this session to change election laws — from several proposals requiring some proof of ID for voters who vote with absentee ballots and the people who sign as witnesses to removing elections entirely from the independent State Election Commission to the office of the elected Secretary of State as in done in other states.
Lucas’s bill is the first to get a hearing this session, and the Speaker went out of his way to say he thought the 2020 election was well run and his proposal was to prevent future problems.
Some counties verify voter signatures on absentee ballots and some don’t. Some give absentee voters a chance to correct their ballots if they don’t follow the exact rules, like forget to sign it, Lucas said.
“The entities that are doing these great jobs, we just want them to follow the same rules,” Lucas said.
The bill that unanimously passed the subcommittee also increases the size of the current five-member South Carolina Election Commission’s board. Lucas’s suggestion was eight members, four appointed by the governor, two by the Speaker and two by the Senate President. They would be split between Republicans and Democrats.
The subcommittee changed the bill to make it nine members with the governor able to appoint four of his five members from his own political party.
The American Civil Liberties Union supports the law so election rules would be uniform, said Susan Dunn, head of the organization’s legal division in South Carolina, suggesting they have been frustrated by different rules counties use when convicted felons try to restore their voting rights.
South Carolina lawmakers created the State Election Commission in 1969 to have an independent agency run elections and Dunn said it has plenty of support from other places.
“At those national tables, the South Carolina system is widely respected,” Dunn said.
The subcommittee also passed three other changes to elections. One would require all candidates to pay a filing fee whether they have a primary or not. A second would have the state party consider all challenges to results in their own primaries down to the county level and a third would no longer require county political parties to post legal notices of their conventions in the local newspaper.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.