Legislative Report: March 10

Free, fair, and secure elections strengthen public confidence in electoral institutions and give efficacy and legitimacy to our democracy. Our democratic system is what makes America great, setting us apart from countries around the world. We recently learned about nonuniformity in elections around our state. 

Representative Nathan Ballentine House District 71

The South Carolina House is dedicated to combating all accounts of voter fraud and inconsistencies, which was our focus this week. I am proud to report that I voted in favor of a bill that drastically improves and fortifies the integrity of our election system here in South Carolina. There are several different safeguards and protections of this bill, but notably, this bill improves identity verification and addresses early voting and absentee voting. 

Here are the bill’s major accomplishments (H. 4919): 

Combating Voter Fraud: • Makes election fraud a felony and creates a SLED hotline to report suspicious activity at the polls; • • Requires all voters to attest that “to their knowledge” they are not registered to vote in a state other than South Carolina; • • Requires a photo id to return an absentee ballot in person as is on Election Day. To submit an absentee ballot application, the last 4 of your social security number must be provided for identity verification; • Requires the witness of every absentee ballot to be verifiable by providing a printed name, signature, and address; • • Creates a system where deceased individuals are purged from the voter roll; • • Improves cybersecurity, by ensuring ballot machines will never be connected to the Internet;

Voter Accessibility: • Creates an ‘early voting’ system, which extends 2 weeks before an election for all qualified voters • • Modifies the reasons that an absentee ballot can be cast, replacing being “on vacation” with “absent from the country for the duration of early voting and election day” to the list; • • County Boards of Voter Registration and Elections must determine locations for early voting, considering geography, population, and ADA compliance. Boards must distribute the locations throughout the county to maximize accessibility for all voters. The Executive Director of the State Election Commission may, at his discretion, direct the move of early voting centers to ensure proper distribution through each county; • • Eliminates the ‘10 miles apart’ rule for polling locations, allowing polling places to be closer than 10 miles apart if it better accommodates the population;

Ballot Processes: • Prevents candidates from being nominated by more than one political party or appearing on the ballot more than once; • • Allows absentee ballots to be opened before the election for quicker election results when polls close but makes disclosing information about results a punishable offense.

I am proud to report that this bill received full bi-partisan support, with a unanimous vote from every present member of the House. This is the second week in a row that a major House bill has received unanimous support – indicative of solid legislation that works towards the House’s common goal of making South Carolina a better place to live, raise a family, and own a business. I hope that the Senate will support this important legislation soon so that we can adopt these protections and fortify our elections in South Carolina. 

Speaking of elections, in the next two weeks I will be filing paperwork to again offer my services to our community in the South Carolina House of Representatives. You first gave me the privilege and opportunity in 2004 and I never take your support for granted. Since then we’ve had two primaries in 2016 (84%-16%) and 2018 (70%-25%-5%). In 2020 we had a general election (65%-32%-3%). Each time, you have validated my hard work and I am so very thankful for that. In the weeks ahead, I’ll share endorsements with you – but it’s YOUR endorsement that matters most.

Please call me anytime you have questions, concerns, or advice. It’s the best way for me to do my job in Columbia. You can call me at the office 803-734-2969 or at home 803-834-4613. You can also always me at [email protected].