Well, that was easy. No long lines. No complicated technology to master. Very few computer glitches, and the ones we had were pretty quickly resolved. Just run in, show your ID, cast your ballot, and go on with your day. Tuesday's runoffs will be even easier.
Don’t get used to it.
Because of the state's move to more cumbersome paper ballots, the 2020 presidential election count is shaping up to be long and delayed event.
A year from now, the precincts that were open two weeks ago will have the same number of voting machines, the same number of poll workers, a lot more names and questions on the ballot and at least three times as many people trying to vote.
The Nov. 5 elections in Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and about 180 other municipalities gave the S.C. Election Commission a nice, soft trial run of its new paper-based electronic voting system, and the agency reports that everything went well. That’s good.
But the real test is in a year, when instead of mostly lower-profile municipal elections in some municipalities, we have hotly contested elections throughout the state for county, legislative and congressional offices. And the presidential election, which brings out hordes of people who don’t bother to vote in other elections.
The 2016 presidential election attracted 2.1 million S.C. voters. The number of registered voters has grown by 200,000 since then, to 3.3 million, and it will go higher.
So if you stood in long lines in 2016, you’ll stand in longer lines in 2020.
Under South Carolina's new paper ballot system, the quarter of absentee ballots cast in teh 2020 election will have to removed from sealed envelopes and scanned on Election Day, potential delaying results by hours or days. The Legislature can easily correct this problem before it occurs.
Unless the Legislature finally takes the advice of the State Election Commission, which has argued for years that if the state won’t buy a lot more voting machines, it needs to make better use of the ones we have by allowing more people to cast their ballots before Election Day.
We aren’t exactly fans of early voting. There’s something important about joining our neighbors in this communal exercise of democracy. With early voting, there’s a risk that something important will happen after you vote that would make you regret your early vote. And some states spend far too much staffing too many voting places for weeks on end, in what sometimes looks more like an effort to turn out Democratic voters than simply to make voting easier for everyone.
But the professionals who run our elections are right, and the Legislature has made it clear that it’s not going to buy enough voting machines and hire enough poll workers to make voting as easy a year from now as it was on Nov. 5. That’s fair and reasonable, but it is neither fair nor reasonable to require people to wait for hours in line to exercise their right to vote — particularly people who don’t have the luxury of showing up for work late or leaving early or just disappearing for a few hours in the middle of the day.
South Carolina has long allowed some people to vote early, through absentee voting. And thanks to aggressive marketing by the S.C. Republican Party, about a quarter of voters do that today. Most of us can’t legally cast an absentee ballot unless we’re out of town or have to work the entire time the polls are open or for some other reason can’t go to our polling place on Election Day. But there’s one big exception: Anyone 65 or older can vote absentee just because they want to.
What this means is that we have unlimited early voting for senior citizens but not for most working people, many of whom risk getting fired if they decide to wait too long in line to vote.
It’s time to change that before another presidential election. The Legislature needs to allow a brief in-person early voting period — perhaps a week, at one or two locations per county — so voters can either more easily schedule their voting around their work and family obligations or else stand in shorter lines on Election Day.