Absentee voting expansion heads to Gov. McMaster’s desk; witness signature still required

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers were in Columbia to pick up discussion on important items that have been put on the back burner because of COVID-19.

The state’s budget, the remaining CARES Act money and the November election were the main reasons lawmakers were back under the dome.

South Carolina lawmakers returned from their COVID-19 hiatus to handle unfinished business.

For starters, lawmakers need to pass a budget for the 2021 fiscal year. South Carolina senators had a chance to suggest budget allocations.

“We’re putting in a stop gap so if we have mid-year budget reduction cuts, we have a buffer in there that protects our employees, it protects people from getting cut,” explained Senator Shane Martin.

Next item on the agenda; the CARES Act fund. The state received close to $2 billion in total to spend in response to COVID-19, more than $600 million is still left to be spent.

“We’ve protected our businesses from getting a tax increase with all the unemployment issued caused by COVID,” Senator Martin continued.

The hot topic of the day, which took up hours of debate on the House floor, was the November election.

The Senate passed a bill earlier this month that only expanded absentee voting to all voters in the state. Members of the House wanted to add more changes. Proposals to waive the witness signature and add more drop boxes were unsuccessful.

Representative Beth Bernstein added, “Especially with the circumstances we are dealing with during this pandemic. So I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to make those additional changes to broaden and making sure people aren’t risking their lives when exercising their right to vote.”

Only 1 representative voted against expanding absentee voting to all voters saying the bill did not go far enough. The bill will now head to the governor’s desk. Discussions on the budget and CARES Act will continue Wednesday.

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