The GOP-controlled South Carolina House of Representatives on Thursday approved an early-voting bill that Democrats say would give people less time to cast their ballots before an election. The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Alan Clemmons of Myrtle Beach, calls for opening early-voting centers in each South Carolina county during a nine-day window before elections. Democrats complained that the legislation would eliminate the existing one-month period before elections when voters can complete absentee ballots in person. “We should not do anything to deny free and ready access to the vote,” said Rep. Joe Neal, a Democrat from Hopkins. “Let me be clear: This is designed to suppress the vote in South Carolina.”
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a Democrat from Columbia, predicted that the bill would lead to costly lawsuits similar to the legal battle over the state’s voter ID law, which a federal court upheld last October.
South Carolina is one of only 18 states that do not offer no-excuse early voting. Early voting is allowed in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina.
The issue has received more attention in Columbia since Richland County voters were forced to wait six hours or longer to cast their ballots in last November’s general election.