This year, more people than ever could be requesting absentee ballots because of the pandemic. According to an article from the New York Times, the amount of mail-in ballots in this election is expected to double from 2016.
All registered voters in South Carolina will be allowed to vote absentee this election. Gov. Henry McMaster signed a general assembly bill on Sept. 15 allowing voters to cite the pandemic as a reason to vote absentee.
"There are people who will ask more for absentee ballots, but the problem with absentee ballots, in some ways, is that they're more likely — you might forget to turn it in; you might fill out a form wrong," Chase Meyer, a visiting political science assistant professor at USC, said.
"Voters are excited" about this election, Meyer said, but the pandemic could affect overall turnout.
"Without the pandemic, you have all these factors going into general voter excitement, presidential election and a competitive Senate race. All of those signs point towards very high turnout and a ton of South Carolina voters — until the pandemic hit. Sadly, it leads to a huge question mark. There are a lot of voters who will be unsure about if it's safe to go vote in person," Meyer said.
Students can register to vote at uofsc.turbovote.org. The university has partnered with TurboVote in order to give students access to register and request an absentee ballot. In South Carolina, the deadline to register online is Oct. 4. Information for other states can be found here. When registering, students can choose to vote in their home state or the state where they go to college.
"We are actively working to ensure students are aware of how they can exercise their civic duties inside of their states as well as on the national scene," Antonia Adams, a peer leader for the Civil Leadership Education and Action Team (CLEAT), said.
CLEAT held registration drives on Sept. 17 and 22. The organization is also participating in the 1801 Challenge, which has the goal of getting 1,801 students to register to vote before the registration deadline.
"We've made it as easy as possible, and we're just really excited to see what this election year looks like," Adams, a third-year business economics student, said. "Whatever a student decides to do, we are here to support and help them."
Carly Zerr, the coordinator for service and civic engagement in the Leadership and Service Center, said CLEAT puts on programming that is "year-round, non-partisan and student-led."
"We always say the phrase, 'Our democracy needs you,' and I really believe that's true, with college students, that we need their voices represented," Zerr said. "They have such great viewpoints on the issues that are affecting our country, and having them implement their voices into the voting process is going to be critical moving forward as a society."
If you want to vote by mail in South Carolina, you can apply for an absentee ballot online or get the application mailed to you. Go to scvotes.org to access the online application, which you'll need to print out. You can also call or email your county's voter registration office and they will mail you the application.
The voter registration office must receive your absentee ballot application by Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. in order for you to receive your ballot. Once your absentee ballot is filled out with your choices for this election, it has to be turned in by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
For those voting in other states, which have varying rules and deadlines, information on absentee ballots can be found at vote.org.