Polls open for in-person absentee voting


Photo: Live 5 News

Photo: Live 5 News

By Danielle Seat and Riley Bean | October 5, 2020 at 7:50 AM EDT - Updated October 5 at 7:55 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Tri-County voting officials say safety precautions will make things look a little different, but for the most part, polls will look similar to Election Day.

As the first day of in-person absentee voting begins, organizers want voters to know that because of the current state of emergency, all voters will be able to vote in-person absentee before Election Day.

Berkeley County

Officials say Berkeley County voters can go to the Voter Registration & Elections Offices in Monks Corner 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Masks and social distancing are recommended, and organizers say all voters will be given q-tips with which to vote instead of using fingers to touch the screens.

Berkeley County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Adam Hammons says they will have about half the machines set up in the office to be able to keep things safe. However, with all registered voters able to vote absentee this year, he says he’s hopeful voters will be spread out over these next few weeks.

“Where before we could set up six to eight machines in our office, we can only really set up four safely in the space that we have,” Hammons said. “So we do think wait times might be a little longer just as we keep people safe, you know we can’t have 50 people in our little office.”

Hammons says the process should take only a few minutes, and team members will be working hard to keep the wait times down.

In Berkeley County, officials say 24,000 people have requested mail-in applications and 16,000 have returned those applications.

All the mailed out ballots will go out Monday, and Hammons says they should be in mailboxes the same week.

Charleston County

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Officials say registered voters can cast their ballots at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Officials say there will be floor markings to encourage social distancing, q-tips for use on the voting screens and face masks will be recommended, but not required.

Organizers say poll workers will be wearing PPE including masks, shields, and gloves.

Charleston County Director of Elections and Voter Administration Jason Debney says The North Charleston Coliseum will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but they are expecting these first few weeks of absentee voting to have minimal wait times.

Debney also says more than 70,000 ballots were requested and more than 54,000 have been returned.

Dorchester County

Dorchester County Voter Registration and Election Director Todd Billman says for the next four weeks, Dorchester County’s main location for absentee in-person voting will be at the County Service Building in St. George, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Billman says masks and social distancing are recommended, and all voters will be given a q-tip with which to touch the screens.

There will not be less stations at the county service building, but Billman says they will be limiting the amount of people in the building at a time.

Billman says the county is excited to be implementing new technology in the machines to speed up the process.

“There will be some wait times, but I feel like we are probably going to get close to 20% or greater of people voting before Election Day. And so I think that will cut back on a lot of the lines,” Billman said.

So far for mail-in absentee voting, Billman says Dorchester County has sent out more than 12,000 absentee application requests and received more than 11,000. He says all mail-in ballots will be sent out Monday.

Officials say all voters need to be registered beforehand and all voters need to bring a valid ID or other form of ID with them.

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