With the presidential election only five weeks away, more and more yards are beginning to fill with campaign signs. This yard in Forest Acres suggests a household with divided party loyalties – or a sense of humor.
With the presidential election a month away, many people are left with uncertainty as they prepare to vote.
Officials with the South Carolina State Election Commission said they are taking into consideration fears over the coronavirus while preparing for the large turnout that marks a presidential year election.
John Michael Catalano, outreach coordinator for the South Carolina State Election Commission, said the election commission has been preparing safety measures since the June primaries.
“The state really realized this was going to be an issue that was going to impact us for a long time,” Catalano said.
Registered voters are now eligible to vote via absentee ballot with a “state of emergency (general)” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a witness is now required to be present for the signature on the ballot return envelope.
Those who plan to vote in person on Nov. 3 should know that their polling place will be observing social distancing rules by having the voting machines six feet apart, along with new sanitary standards set in place by the state election commission. All poll workers will be wearing masks, and poll managers also receive special training to properly clean the voting equipment.
Catalano also said people should consider voting absentee in-person. This “early voting” is from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2.
“It’s spread out throughout the month, so it’s not everyone in a small location at once. It’s going to cut down on lines, cut down on interactions with other people and help with social distancing,” Catalano said.
Catalano also said the commission works very closely with the U.S Postal Service to ensure election mail is delivered and received on time. “We’ve already gotten back almost 310,000 applications for absentee by-mail,” Catalano said.
Carolina News & Reporter surveyed 35 Midlands residents about how they plan to vote. Unlike trending polls, 57.6% of those surveyed plan to vote in-person on Election Day.
Iris Gadsden, a recent graduate from Erskine College who completed the survey, plans to vote in-person on Nov. 3.
“I would rather do it in person and just be a part of that process, rather than having to go through the process of making sure it goes through in the mail,” Gadsden said.
Anne Milford Graybill, a former teacher who now works as a tutor for magnet programs, plans to vote absentee in-person. “I can go whenever I’m able to and see how long the lines are. My fear is that on the day, I mean, what if I caught COVID? Then I couldn’t go,” Graybill said.
Deadlines and dates
The deadline to register to vote has different deadlines depending on how you wish to register. Registering in person will end Oct. 2, while registering online ends Oct. 4. And if you’re doing it by mail, it should be postmarked no later than Oct. 5.
Those who wish to vote absentee must request their application by Oct. 4 and return their ballot by Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
Old and new things to bring when voting
Voters are still required to bring valid identification–whether that is a South Carolina driver’s license, REAL ID, a S.C. concealed weapons permit, voter registration card with a photo ID, military ID, or a U.S. passport.
Those who plan to vote in-person on Nov. 3 should bring a personal pen to sign-in at their polling place. They will provide you with a disposable cotton swab to vote on the electronic ballot machines.
What to do if you plan to vote by-mail
First, voters must complete and submit an absentee ballot application. Voters may now select “state of emergency (general)” as the reason for absentee voting. Applications can be returned to the county voter registration office in person, by mail, email or fax.
Once voters have received their ballot and casted their vote, a witness must be present when they sign the ballot return envelope. Then, the ballot should be mailed no later than one week prior to election day.
John Michael Catalano, outreach coordinator for the South Carolina State Election Commission, thinks more people should vote early at their county registration office. Photo credit: John Michael Catalano.
Iris Gadsden, a recent graduate from Erskine College who plans to vote in the 2020 election. Photo credit: Iris Gadsden.
Former teacher Anne Milford Graybill plans to vote early to avoid long lines at the polls. Photo credit: Anne Milford Graybill.
Richland county voters will most likely see a ballot with races for U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, among others.