U.S. Supreme Court requires witness signatures for South Carolina absentee ballots

By Vivian Jones | The Center Square Oct 6, 2020

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated South Carolina’s requirement that absentee voters provide a witness signature on ballots cast by mail.

The Supreme Court announced the decision Monday, reversing a lower court’s decision to block the state law requiring witness signatures. The order did not note any justices in dissent of the decision.

“The Supreme Court has once again ruled to protect the integrity of every American voter’s ballot,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted.

South Carolina Democrats filed a lawsuit against state election officials over the witness signature requirement, which state legislators voted to require earlier this year during efforts to allow no-excuse absentee voting in the state.

A U.S. District Court judge waived the requirement in an order last month, holding the requirement burdens the right to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, South Carolina Republicans appealed the decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reinstated the lower court’s ruling. Republicans requested the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a stay to maintain the signature requirement, as absentee voting for the presidential election already is under way.

“For many years, this Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote. “By enjoining South Carolina’s witness requirement shortly before the election, the District Court defied that principle and this Court’s precedents.”

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday temporarily reinstates the witness signature requirement while the case continues in court but grants absentee ballots already cast without a witness signature and those cast in the next two days are still required to be counted.

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

More than 150,000 absentee ballots have been mailed out in South Carolina.

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