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SC adds Democratic Biden-Harris ticket to sample ballot after it was initially left off

Sample ballot SC

Sample ballots in South Carolina did not initially include the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when they were released Thursday morning. Image taken from an online sample ballot on Sept. 3, 2020. 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have been added to South Carolina sample ballots following accusations of partisan mischief over their names having been initially omitted.

The sample ballots that prepare voters for the upcoming November election were made public Thursday morning, with the Democratic presidential ticket missing.

The Post and Courier first brought the omission to light, and within hours, the State Election Commission updated the ballots.

It comes at a time when the presidential election faces uncertainty created by the coronavirus health crisis, and as the number of early voters is expected to be exponentially higher than normal.

State Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson told The Post and Courier when contacted that his party hadn't yet certified its presidential nominee before the Sept. 8 deadline but that the sample ballots shouldn't have been provided for voters until they were complete.

The commission, Robertson said, is a Republican-majority body appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster, one of the first prominent political figures to back President Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign.

Trump and running mate Mike Pence were included on the sample ballots, along with candidates for the Green, Alliance and Libertarian parties.

"It has become evident that they want to confuse people and they want to keep people from voting," Robertson said. "Remember the election commissioners are political appointees. They shouldn't have done it before the deadline."

Election commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told The Post and Courier that the sample ballot is provided particularly for the benefit of military and overseas voters — via a "Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot" — who are mailed blank ballots with guidance on who is certified.

Those voters are encouraged to look at the latest official list of candidates as close to Election Day as possible, because candidates could change at any time, Whitmire said.

"While most know the major presidential candidates," he said, "the sample ballot, in many cases, is the only way for one of those voters to know about other candidates, local candidates and referendum questions."

The ballots can be published as early as 100 days before the election, he said. The election is two months away, on Nov. 3. The sample ballots were first made accessible to registered voters on Thursday morning, he said.

Biden was formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 18. The following week, Trump accepted the Republican nomination at the close of the Republican National Convention.

Whitmire said the state Democratic Party was aware of the Sept. 8 deadline to certify.

By late afternoon, Robertson posted on Twitter a copy of a formal letter submitted to the election commission certifying the Biden-Harris nomination.

The commission updated its records within the hour.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.

Reporter/Local Editor

Eric is a reporter for The Post and Courier's statewide politics team and serves as local editor for its Greenville newsroom. Previously with The Greenville News, he's covered the Upstate for two decades and served as a USA TODAY correspondent. He studied journalism at the University of South Carolina.

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