The South Carolina State Election Commission anticipates close to 40% of voters to return absentee ballots before Election Day.
A representative from the South Carolina Election State Commission said Tuesday election officials have not received any reports of voter intimidation, although he urged voters to report any efforts to suppress voting in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The biggest complaints the commission receives are campaign materials being too close to the polls.
“The polling place should really be like a sanctuary for voters,” said John Michael Catalano, outreach coordinator for the South Carolina State Election Commission.
While there have been no reports of voter intimidation, the comments from Catalano follow a Monday news conference by Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin, 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and other Columbia officials.
“We’re here to talk about the importance of our collective efforts to make sure that, and reassure, all voters in Richland County, and assure anyone who may be considering engaging in mischief, that the authorities are working together to reinforce the democratic norms of this great republic,” said Benjamin.
Lott said he and his officers have been working with the state election commission to ensure traffic is flowing around voting places and people are not being harassed when standing in line to cast their ballot.
“The age in which we live in right now — the greatest pandemic since 1918, the greatest economic disruption in an election year since 1932 and the greatest social unrest around systemic issues of inequity and race since 1968—it is imperative in 2020 that we make sure our voters don’t have anything else to worry about,” said Benjamin.
Lott said during the news conference he has received a few calls from individuals who were fearful of being harassed while waiting in line to cast their ballot.
Fears of voter intimidation might come from President Donald Trump, as he has made statements encouraging people to poll watch.
“Voter intimidation and voter suppression will not be tolerated in Columbia, Richland county, or the fifth circuit,” said 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson. “It’s a warning to all of those who would seek to disrupt or to unfairly influence our democracy by intimidating voters, that they should expect to be prosecuted.”
While police officers can not be stationed at polling places, Lott said deputies would be nearby to respond to any intimidation reports.
South Carolina does allow poll watchers to be present in precincts on Election Day, but they must be appointed by a candidate or political party and present a signed letter from that candidate or party leader to the poll manager. Poll watchers must also wear a small badge with the specific candidate or party they are representing, and they must not interact with voters.