The 2020 General Election is underway in Horry and Georgetown counties as thousands of residents have already returned absentee ballots.
Voters in South Carolina began casting their absentee ballots last Monday through the United States Postal Service or at designated locations such as the county elections office.
As of Monday, 15,532 recorded absentee ballots were cast in Horry County during the first week polls were open. More than 53,000 absentee ballots were requested this election year compared to 19,000 requests in 2016. The county has 237,000 registered voters.
In Georgetown, more than 3,000 people already have cast ballots, with 10,000 absentee ballots requested. During the 2016 election, 9,300 people requested a ballot. The county has 44,917 registered voters.
Absentee ballots can be returned to the election office in the county that the voter lives in until up to the time when in-person polls close. Witness signatures are required for the ballot to count.
Georgetown County’s election office is located at 303 North Hazard Street within the City of Georgetown.
“There were already people lined up and knocking on the door at 7 a.m. this morning,” said Jackie Broach, spokesperson for Georgetown County.
Horry County opened additional absentee ballot locations where voters can quickly vote without having to mail it in. Absentee ballots can be cast at the Conway elections office, the North Strand Recreation Center, the South Strand Recreation Center and the Carolina Forest Library.
Sandy Martin, Horry’s election director, said opening the additional voting locations has greatly cut down on lines at the Conway office. Even with additional help, Martin said it has been stressful helping Horry County navigate a historic election.
There is still time to request an absentee ballot, but time is running out. Before an absentee ballot is granted, registered voters must submit an application listing a reason they cannot vote normally. All South Carolina voters qualify as eligible for absentee voting due to the pandemic counting as a reasonable impediment to voting in person.
This absentee application must be returned no later than 5 p.m. Oct. 24, but election officials recommend submitting the application as soon as possible. A witness signature is required.
Anyone other than yourself can be used for a witness signature.
Once the application is accepted, a ballot will be mailed to the registered voter. As a precaution to avoid any issues, it is best to return the ballot with a witness signature as soon as possible. All ballots must be turned in by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 to count in final results.
While a lot of attention is being given to the absentee process, polls will open somewhat normally on Nov. 3.
To date, only one Horry County precinct will be combined. The Garden City #4 precinct will move to Seaside Elementary School.
Registered voters can visit scvotes.gov to check where to vote and see a sample ballot. Knowing where to vote and who will be on the ballot is an important precaution to avoid Election Day issues while visiting the polls.
It is too late to register to vote for the 2020 general election in South Carolina, but other important elections are coming around the bend. Notably, in 2021 Myrtle Beach’s mayoral seat will be up for election.
Voter registration information can be found on scvotes.gov or by visiting a local elections office.