COLUMBIA — The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would allow state voters to cast ballots during a 10-day window before Election Day, with no voting on Sundays or the Monday before an election.
The measure was passed by a 34-5 vote.
“Our right to vote is sacred, and we need to make participating in our democracy as open and accessible as it can be,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia.
The measure is a priority for the Democratic caucus.
South Carolina currently allows people to vote absentee in person up to a month before an election if they can provide an excuse why they cannot reach the polls on Election Day. That includes being at work or on vacation.
The Senate bill would not affect such in-person absentee voting at local elections offices, but adds a window when an excuse isn’t needed. It needs another vote in the Senate before crossing over to the House.
House Republicans have fought early voting efforts for years.
The House bill would end in-person absentee voting altogether. It would instead create a nine-day window for early voting, but voters who want to vote absentee could only do so by mail. Democrats oppose it as making it harder to vote, not easier.
Most of the Senate debate on Thursday was sidetracked by amendments that were eventually tossed out as not germane to the bill.
One would have required people to put their birthplace on voter registration forms.
Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Travelers Rest, said it was aimed at ensuring non-citizens can’t vote.
“I would think we’d want to keep purity in the system, so people aren’t voting illegally,” he said.
But even his Republican colleagues said his amendment wouldn’t accomplish that.
Another Corbin proposal would have mandated a 10-year prison sentence, without the possibility of parole, for anyone convicted of voting more than once in an election.