COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The deadline to request and return absentee ballot applications for statewide June primary elections passed on Friday.

A new elections law that went into effect in mid-May changed some of the state’s absentee-voting procedures. The legislation established two weeks of no-excuse early voting, replacing in-person, absentee voting.

Voting absentee by mail is still available in South Carolina with some changes. The qualifications to vote absentee were tweaked under the new law.

According to the South Carolina State Election Commission, voters 65 or older, voters with disabilities, military voters and voters absent from the county for any reason can request a mail-in ballot.

Officials said voters who are absent from the county, have employment obligations, are attending a person with an illness or disability, or are in jail pending trial must be unable to vote during the entire early voting period and on election day. 

Previously, the voter had to be absent only on election day.

The procedure to get absentee applications has also changed. New applications must be returned 11 days prior to an election instead of four.

The applications must be requested by phone, mail or in person. Online requests are no longer allowed.

Lynn Teague of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina said since the new law was passed so late in the legislative session, there has been confusion among some voters.

“There has been a lot of change, and people who may have been voting absentee for many years and had a particular sequence of things they were doing, if they assume the same things were going to work again, they may be wrong and may not able to vote,” Teague said.

She said it is recommended that voters cast their ballots early in person for the primaries if they can. She said by November she hopes there is less confusion over the new absentee voting procedures.

State election officials said a photo ID is now required when returning a ballot in person. There are also changes to the witness signature requirement that go into effect on July 1. According to state election officials, the witness will be required to be 18 years old and print their name in addition to signing and providing their address on the return envelope.

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