Horry County Seeks to Make Absentee Voting More Convenient | Election
Voters in Horry County may have more options to vote by mail in the November election.
State election officials have asked the county to designate two to three additional sites to vote in person, and local leaders aim to make that happen.
“We really don’t have a choice,” said Sandy Martin, director of the county registration and election office. “This office can’t handle the number of people we’ll see in November, especially with COVID.”
Postal voting allows people to vote before polling day, either in person at the county election office or by mail. In a normal election, this is an option for people who fall into one of 18 categories (e.g. military personnel, people 65 years of age and over, people with disabilities).
But for last month’s primaries, state officials allowed absentee voting “without excuse” over concerns about COVID-19. This meant anyone could vote by mail and nearly 10,000 Horry voters did. If state leaders allow absentee voting “without excuse” for the Nov. 3 election, Martin said his office could see double that amount. She said that’s why it’s important for people to have additional satellite locations where they can vote by mail before the election.
Although no site has yet been selected, Martin said she was in discussions about possible absentee voting locations in the North Strand, South Strand and Carolina Forest.
“We’ve never done this before,” she says. “We are trying to help voters.”
For years, local election officials have debated the possibility of expanding absentee voting options due to the county’s growing population. Other major counties in the state have taken that step, Martin said, and Horry now has more than 200,000 registered voters.
“With a county our size, this is really recommended,” she said. “It may be so from now on.”
There will be a cost for expansion, however. Martin said the county would have to pay polling officers to staff the sites on a daily basis, and that there was a cost for the equipment as well. She said there would be reimbursement from the state, but not for the full expenses.
Deputy County Administrator Barry Spivey briefed the County Council Administration Committee on potential absence options this week. He said the additional locations would be needed for the entire month of October leading up to polling day. Voters can vote in person until 5 p.m. the day before an election (if they request a ballot in the mail, they have until 7 p.m. on polling day to return it to the Conway polling station) .
“Keep that in mind,” Spivey said. “The hypothesis here [with] The COVID environment is that there will be a lot more people who want to vote by mail. So we are trying to find ways to make this possible. “
Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236