Free, fair, and secure elections strengthen public confidence in electoral institutions and give efficacy and legitimacy to our democracy. Our democratic system is what makes America great, setting us apart from countries around the world. We recently learned about non-uniformity in elections around our state.
The South Carolina House is dedicated to combating all accounts of voter fraud and inconsistencies, which was our focus this week. I am proud to report that I voted in favor of a bill that drastically improves and fortifies the integrity of our election system here in South Carolina. There are several different safeguards and protections of this bill, but notably, this bill improves identity verification and addresses early voting and absentee voting.
Here are the bill’s major accomplishments (H. 4919):
Combating Voter Fraud:
Makes election fraud a felony and creates a SLED hotline to report suspicious activity at the polls;
Requires all voters to attest that “to their knowledge” they are not registered to vote in a state other than South Carolina;
Requires a photo id to return an absentee ballot in person as is on Election Day. To submit an absentee ballot application, the last 4 of your social security number must be provided for identity verification;
Requires the witness of every absentee ballot to be verifiable by providing a printed name, signature, and address;
Creates a system where deceased individuals are purged from the voter roll;
Improves cybersecurity, by ensuring ballot machines will never be connected to the Internet;
Creates an ‘early voting’ system, which extends 2 weeks before an election for all qualified voters
Modifies the reasons that an absentee ballot can be cast, replacing being “on vacation” with “absent from the country for the duration of early voting and election day” to the list;
County Boards of Voter Registration and Elections must determine locations for early voting, considering geography, population, and ADA compliance. Boards must distribute the locations throughout the county to maximize accessibility for all voters. The Executive Director of the State Election Commission may, at his discretion, direct the move of early voting centers to ensure proper distribution through each county;
Eliminates the ‘10 miles apart’ rule for polling locations, allowing polling places to be closer than 10 miles apart if it better accommodates the population;
Prevents candidates from being nominated by more than one political party or appearing on the ballot more than once;
Allows absentee ballots to be opened before the election for quicker election results when polls close but makes disclosing information about results a punishable offense.
I am proud to report that this bill received full bi-partisan support, with a unanimous vote from every present member of the House. This is the second week in a row that a major House bill has received unanimous support - indicative of solid legislation that works towards the House’s common goal of making South Carolina a better place to live, raise a family, and own a business. I hope that the Senate will support this important legislation soon so that we can adopt these protections and fortify our elections in South Carolina.
Critical Race Theory in Committee
Critical race theory, also known as CRT, has been a topic of conversation at the South Carolina House recently. This week, House Education took hours of testimony from people on both sides of the debate. The idea is that critical race theory has crept into some classrooms in our State and many others around the nation. By some definitions, this theory promotes the idea that groups of people, based on sex, race, religion, or other defining characteristics, should take responsibility for historical wrongs. This rhetoric could be potentially dangerous or divisive for our students. We must keep partisanship out of the narrative when teaching our students about the history of our country and state.
I am confident this committee will properly address the issue and we’ll soon have a comprehensive bill that addresses this issue fully and fairly.
It is an honor to serve you, and if you have any questions or concerns about what we are doing in Columbia, feel free to contact me.