HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – State election officials say there could be a delay in election results because of the number of absentee ballots that have to be counted.
“It’s certainly possible the results could be delayed because of this in some counties,” spokesman for the South Carolina State Board of Elections, Chris Whitmore said. “We’re not envisioning anything that would be days and days or weeks of counting ballots. It’s more of going into the next day and finishing the next day.”
South Carolina is on track for more than 1 million ballots to be cast by Election Day.
“We’ve seen record-breaking absentee numbers across the board,” Whitmore said. “More than 800,000 ballots have been issued at this point. In-person absentee; over 370,000 people have voted in-person absentee. That breaks the previous record for in-person absentee; it certainly breaks the overall record for the number of ballots issued. By mail, there have been approximately 450,000 ballots issued, about 275,000 ballots returned.”
There are some changes to this Election Day to allow for more time to count the “extraordinary” number of absentee ballots.
There will be extra staffing and more scanners sent to large counties like Horry.
Typically, election officials can’t begin to process a ballot until the morning of Election Day, but this year to save time, the external envelope can be removed the Sunday before.
“Only that outside envelope,” Whitmore explained. “They can remove the interior secrecy envelope that has the ballot in it. They can do that, that starts at seven on Sunday.”
The ballots themselves can’t be opened or scanned until 7 A.M. on Election Day.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ultimately ruled all absentee by-mail ballots must have a witness signature, but any ballot without a signature received before October 8th must be counted.
The deadline to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot is Saturday October 24th. Although, Whitmire says if you have not begun the application process yet, he does not recommend it in order to get your vote in on time.
“If you haven’t started this process now, I don’t recommend it,” he advised. “I would recommend voting absentee in-person or on Election Day.”
Whitmire says there is not a postmark provision in South Carolina, meaning for your mail-in ballot to be counted, it must be at the election office by 7 P.M. on Election Day.
“If you have an absentee ballot right now, an absentee by-mail ballot, you need to get it in the mail as soon as possible,” he said. “Vote it, put it back in the envelopes, sign it, get a witness signature, have the witness sign their address and get it back to the office. Put it back in the mail now because it’s got to get there by 7 P.M. on Election Day.”
The State Board of Elections encourages everyone who is voting by mail to send the ballot at least one week before the election.