Pew Applauds South Carolina for Military and Overseas Voting Improvements
The South Carolina Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voters Act (S. 404) was signed into law today by Gov. Nikki Haley. The new law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, makes it easier for South Carolinians abroad to participate in federal, state and local elections.
By requiring service members and citizens overseas to receive their ballots earlier and faster for all elections and removing obstacles from the process, the law provides a better opportunity for these individuals to cast a vote that will be counted. Sen. George “Chip” Campsen, III (R-Charleston and Berkeley counties, District 43) and Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry County, District 107) led efforts to pass the bill, which was backed by legislative leadership and drew significant bipartisan support in both chambers. Major General Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the South Carolina Adjutant General, also supported it.
“We commend Sen. Campsen and Rep. Clemmons for championing this significant legislation that protects the right to vote for service members and civilians abroad,” said Rear Admiral [Ret.] James J. Carey, senior policy adviser to the Pew Center on the States. “This law further demonstrates the South Carolina legislature and the State Election Commission's commitment to supporting its military and overseas voters.”
South Carolina ranks in the top third of the nation for military personnel population, so the law is critical to ensuring that tens of thousands of service members and civilians overseas have the opportunity to vote and have their votes counted. The legislation extends key protections of the 2009 federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to state and local elections. It includes provisions from the 2010 Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, a model law developed by the Uniform Law Commission, which drafts and promotes legislation across states to address problems common to all of them.
Specifically, the legislation streamlines the voting process and removes obstacles that military and overseas voters commonly encounter by:
- mandating that absentee ballots be sent at least 45 days before any election;
- providing electronic transmission of unmarked absentee ballots for all elections;
- accepting the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) for all elections as a back-up measure for voters who don't receive their official ballots in time; and
- eliminating the witness requirement on ballots from military and overseas voters.
"Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Campsen and Rep. Clemmons, South Carolinians overseas will be able to participate more easily in the democratic process back at home—not only in federal elections as required by the MOVE Act—but also in state and local elections," said Doug Chapin, director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States.
In 1952, President Harry Truman urged reform of an election system that disenfranchised those serving in the military in World War II and in the postwar reconstruction. A Pew report, No Time to Vote, documented the significant challenges they still face in order to cast a ballot. The Pew Center on the States is working on a full complement of election system reforms for service members and civilians abroad. Pew has also been examining the problems posed by the nation's outdated voter registration system and partners with election officials to evaluate options for building a system that is more efficient and accurate, while reducing costs and administrative burdens.
For more information on Pew's Election Initiatives, visit www.pewstates.org/elections.
The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewstates.org