20 Election Reforms SC Needs Now

September 3, 2021

Palmetto Promise Team

Here’s what you need to know about voting integrity in the Palmetto State.

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Secure, honest elections are the bedrock of democracy. In a republic, citizens simply must have 100% confidence that the one who takes the oath of office is the one who actually won the election!

Events over the last several election cycles have shaken confidence in the integrity of our elections in America to be sure. But in South Carolina, thanks to strong state laws and aggressive legal initiatives taken to defend them (one of which was fought—and won—before the US Supreme Court) we have preempted many problems and largely avoided debacles like those experienced by our neighbors in Georgia and elsewhere.

But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels here in the Palmetto State: potential future fraud and federal threats like the For the People Act loom.

That’s why Palmetto Promise Institute is launching our Election Integrity Project. For this essential effort, we have reviewed proposals from top national election lawyers, constitutional scholars, and many other states to develop a list of what we consider the Top 20 most urgent and common-sense changes needed to our existing statutes. A number of these fixes have already been filed in the South Carolina General Assembly, but no existing legislation contains them all.

As you will see on this handy graphic, we have divided our template into four separate categories: Absentee Ballot Security, Voter Roll Integrity, Polling Place Standards, and Legal & Other Statutory Reforms.

At twenty reforms, our list is not exhaustive, and there are certainly other upgrades that have merit. But with these essential pillars in place, the Palmetto State can boast the most free and fair elections in America.

View all 20 recommendations in a printable version here, or read below.

     Absentee Ballot Security

  1. Require a voter’s DOB and last 4 digits of their SSN on absentee ballot applications and use this information along with signatures on file to verify voter’s identity before a ballot is sent.
    Example(s): ID HB290, FL SB90 sect. 24 
  2. Strengthen witness ID requirements (require name, address, and phone number and verify witness’ identity and signature).
  3. Crack down on ballot harvesting by limiting how many absentee ballots a single person may witness and who may deliver an absentee ballot to an election office.
    Example(s): KS HB2183 sect. 2
  4. Allow in-person no-excuse absentee voting up to 14 days prior to an election and expand the number of in-person absentee voting locations. Narrow reasons for mail-in absentee voting and ban absentee ballot drop boxes.
    Example(s): SC H.4150, H.3372
  5. Invest in technology required to barcode and track all absentee ballot envelopes and develop a companion online dashboard to allow for real-time public reporting of requests, transmittal, and receipt of absentee ballots.
    Example(s): TX HB1382, UT HB70, IA SF568 sect. 42
  6. Allow absentee ballot identity verification to begin at 8:30 AM the day before the election and tabulation to start at 7:00 AM on Election Day.
    Example(s): SC H.4150, H.3372, AL HB538

    Voter Roll Integrity

  7. Require and fund ongoing, continuous, and comprehensive accuracy updates, including merging duplicates & comparing with National Change of Address Registry.
    Example(s): IA SB413 sect. 25, MT SB170
  8. Require state election commission to collaborate with other states to keep database current and prevent voting in more than one state (interstate).
    Example(s): OK SB710
  9. Require all South Carolina counties to collaborate to account for deceased voters and voters moving across county lines (intrastate).
    Example(s): TX SB1 sect. 1.02 and sect1.05
  10. Require registrations to be compared with county tax records to ensure that the address on file is actually a residence.
    Example(s): TX SB1111 sect. 2

    Polling Place Standards

  11. Require poll books to include photographs of the voter from their driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. Set deadline and security standards for shifting to electronic poll books (“e-polls”).
    Example(s): See NY Election Statute sect. 1-104-38. No state has fully implemented this reform.
  12. Reinforce in statute the right of election observers/watchers to see and hear all election activity at a polling place.
    Example(s): TX SB1 sect. 3.03-3.06
  13. Limit individuals allowed to provide assistance to a voter in casting his or her ballot, and require each individual doing so to take an oath of impartiality.
    Example(s): AL HB575, TX SB1. sect. 5.03
  14. Allow all parties to charge filing fees and require proof of membership or participation in primaries as a condition for filing as a candidate of that party.
    Example(s): SC H.3372 sect. 5
  15. Limit a candidate to appearing on the ballot for a particular office once, not as the nominee of multiple parties.
    Example(s): SC H.3261, H.3206, S.559

    Legal & Other Statutory Reforms

  16. Ensure that the General Assembly is a “necessary party” with standing to sue other state officials who make or attempt to make unauthorized changes in state election laws.
    Example(s): SC S.499 sect. 2, H.3444 sect. 2, FL SB 90 sect. 1
  17. Clarify in statute that a voter may seek a writ of mandamus compelling any state or local official to abide by or enforce state election laws.
  18. Codify requirements for physical vote counting to begin immediately, be open to all observers, and continue without pauses until the tabulation is complete.
    Example(s): SD HB1125
  19. Standardize in statute procedures and responsibilities of local election commissions and their relationship with the state election commission.
    Example(s): SC S.499, H.3444
  20. Ban outside fund contributions toward election administration.
    Example(s): SC H.3877, TN SB1315, GA SB202 sect. 9, FL SB90 sect. 2

We urge the General Assembly to pass these critical reforms well in advance of the June 2022 party primaries to allow time for implementation. We will track legislative progress toward that goal here when session resumes in January.   

Voting in a representative democracy is a sacred trust. We must make it a priority to safeguard the security and integrity of our voting process. These reforms will do that. 

Download this report.