Supreme Court Backs South Carolina Witness Requirement For Absentee Ballots

( Republicans have won a victory in South Carolina over absentee ballots.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted a request from the GOP in the stat to reinstate its requirement to have a witness signature on all absentee ballots. There weren’t any noted dissents in the case.

Any ballots that were already cast before the court’s Monday ruling, and/or are received within two days of this order, can’t be rejected if they fail to comply with the requirement for a witness signature.

Law in South Carolina requires that voters who cast a mail-in absentee ballot must swear an oath that they are qualified to vote and haven’t received any assistance in voting at the time they sign and seal their ballots. One other person must witness that oath, and that person must sign on the form below where the voter signs.

Democrats in the state challenged South Carolina’s law, saying that due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s “overwhelming and unrefuted evidence, that as applied during the pandemic, the witness requirement increases the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote.”

A lower court in the system had previously blocked South Carolina’s requirement, before the GOP appealed to higher courts.

In front of the Supreme Court, Republicans argued more than 150,000 absentee ballots “have been mailed out already, and each passing day increases the risk that ballots will be returned, that, in mistaken reliance on the district court’s injunction, do not comply with the witness requirement.

“Although COVID-19 might make in-person voting less desirable, courts cannot hold private citizens’ decisions to stay home for their own safety against the state.”

In explaining his reasoning for backing the Republicans’ arguments, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the state legislature’s decision either to “keep or to make changes to election rules to address COVID-19 ordinarily should not be subject to second-guessing by an unelected federal judiciary.”

He also said the court has emphasized repeatedly that federal courts shouldn’t alter election rules at the state level if it’s close to an election. He concluded that the lower court “defied that principle.”

The principles that Cavanaugh was citing come from the Purcell principle, which came from a dispute in Arizona over voter identification laws brought to courts in 2006 on an emergency basis. The principle says federal judges should refrain typically from changing voting rules in the final days before any election.

Trav Robertson, the Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, was naturally disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision. In a statement, he said:

“Our hope is that no one gets COVID-19 trying to find a witness. We are disappointed, but elections have consequences.”

On the flip side, Drew McKissick, the Republican Party chairman in South Carolina, was very happy about the Supreme Court’s decision. In a statement, he said:

“Despite the Democrats’ efforts to hijack a pandemic and use it to meddle with our election laws, they’ve lost. We’re pleased the Supreme Court reinstated the witness signature requirement and recognized its importance in helping to prevent election fraud.”