South Carolina

Snapshot: South Carolina receives a poor score for ease of voting, a good score for ballot security and a poor score for how its elected officials responded to claims about the 2020 election.

Ease of Voting

Some measures to expand access
3 out of 7 benchmarks

Ballot Security

Many measures to ensure accuracy and security
6 out of 8 benchmarks

What Politicians Say

Several responses that undermined the 2020 election
2 out of 4 benchmarks

State lawmakers unanimously expanded in-person early voting in 2022, a rare example of bipartisan voting legislation over the last two years.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s Republican leaders made a one-time exception to its strict vote-by-mail rules, allowing anyone in the state to request a mail-in ballot without an excuse.

About 1.3 million voters voted by mail in 2020, more than double the previous record.

But amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting, lawmakers tightened restrictions on vote by mail and made voter fraud a felony, increasing fines and jail time for people who try to vote more than once or try to vote under a false name and elections administrators who intentionally break the law.

The legislature also established two weeks of early voting days, about a week less than than the US average.

The new law also tightened restrictions on vote by mail and made voter fraud a felony, increasing fines and jail time for people who try to vote more than once or try to vote under a false name and elections administrators who intentionally break the law.

The potential for criminal charges for elections officials is part of a national trend among Republican-controlled states.

Read More: US Election Officials Face Their Biggest Threat Yet — Jail Time


Ease of Voting

Is the state making it easy for eligible voters to register and cast a ballot?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How South Carolina compares to other states
South Carolina
Other states
← Easier to vote
Harder →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

Under the new law, each county will set up from one to seven early-voting centers that any voter from the area can use.

The centers would be required to be open on weekdays during the day starting two weeks before the election and closed on Sundays and legal holidays.

The law also tightened the list of reasons voters could request a mail-in ballot. Members of the military, the disabled, people over 65 and those who will be in the hospital will automatically be allowed to vote by mail.

But voters citing job or family obligations or who will be in jail or out of the area on Election Day will need to show proof that they also can’t cast a ballot during the early voting period.


Ballot Security

Is the state following best practices to ensure ballot counting is accurate and timely?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How South Carolina compares to other states
South Carolina
Other states
← More secure
Less secure →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

The law also sets limits on who can return a mail-in ballot, barring South Carolinians from returning more than five ballots, including their own, in any election. Those returning a ballot in person will also need to show photo ID.

Local elections administrators will have to number and keep records on each vote-by-mail application they give out, maintain a list of who returned mail-in ballots and note who has already voted by mail on lists of voters at polling places.

They have to make those and other records available to the public the day before the election.

The State Election Commission will also now run a statewide voter registration database, coordinating information from counties, other state agencies and possibly other states and reaching out to voters when their voter registration doesn’t match other data.

South Carolina, which was one of 11 states that didn’t conduct any audits after the 2020 election, will also now audit all statewide elections, a practice recommended by election security experts to verify that votes were counted properly.


How Politicians Responded to the 2020 Election

What did the state do in the aftermath of Trump's defeat?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How South Carolina compares to other states
South Carolina
Other states
← Fewer efforts to undermine 2020 election
More →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Trump ally, supported the then-president in the days after the 2020 election, saying that he “has a right – and a duty” to ensure illegal or fraudulent votes aren’t counted, but he stopped short of echoing Trump’s claims of widespread fraud.

Attorney General Alan Wilson signed on to the Texas lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

Wilson aide Adam Piper resigned as executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2021 after revelations that the group sent a robocall calling on “patriots” to march on the Capitol and “stop the steal” on Jan. 6. Wilson, who sits on the group’s executive board, said the robocall was sent without his knowledge.

In June, longtime Secretary of State Mark Hammond handily defeated a primary challenge from a candidate who claimed elections are “riddled with Fraud.”

Five of South Carolina’s six Republican US representatives objected to Biden electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania and signed an amicus brief in support of the Texas lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

During Trump’s push to overturn the election, US Senator Lindsey Graham pledged to donate $500,000 to his legal defense fund, but he voted to certify the election on Jan. 6.


Read the full methodology
Story by: Ryan Teague Beckwith and Bill Allison
Graphics by: Paul Murray, Allison McCartney and Mira Rojanasakul
With assistance by: Rachael Dottle, Marie Patino, Jenny Zhang, Gregory Korte, Romy Varghese, Vincent Del Giudice, Nathan Crooks, Margaret Newkirk, Shruti Date Singh, David Welch, Elise Young, Dina Bass, Brendan Walsh, Carey Goldberg and Maria Wood
Editors: Wendy Benjaminson, Wes Kosova, Alex Tribou and Yue Qiu
Photo editors: Eugene Reznik, Marisa Gertz and Maria Wood
Photo credits: Getty Images, Bloomberg and AP Photo