Last updated: July 20, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill temporarily easing absentee voting requirements for the June primaries and runoffs so that all South Carolina residents would be permitted to vote by mail. A federal judge subsequently voided a separate requirement to have such ballots witnessed. These measures helped fuel record turnout in the June 9 primaries, but the legislation permitting all residents to vote by mail has now expired. Meanwhile, in-person primary voting was impacted by polling place closures and poll-worker shortages that caused confusion, longer lines, and other disruptions disproportionately affecting Black voters.
The State Election Commission took steps to improve the vote-by-mail and in-person experience before the June 23 runoff and, between those fixes and lower turnout, that election ran more smoothly. But the 23% turnout of registered voters on June 9 is almost certain to be dwarfed by turnout in November—68% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. Legislative efforts to restore the measures that prevailed in June are stalled by a partisan divide, with Republicans saying they would reconsider expanding absentee voting if South Carolina remains under a state of emergency with COVID-19 in September.