The fiery language surrounding states making changes in election laws reads a lot like some in this country want no election laws.
Put aside all the accusations and counter-accusations, name-calling and labels surrounding election 2020 and the allegations of fraud. The election results are history, but how the election was conducted in each state can and should be examined by state officials. That has never been more necessary than after 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in changes in voting procedures across the country, some approved by lawmakers and some implemented without lawmaker approval.
While Democrats in Congress want to change the voting landscape by essentially giving control of elections to the federal government, the Constitution gives that authority to the states, where it should remain.
South Carolina lawmakers are looking at making some changes following the 2020 vote. In advocating them, Gov. Henry McMaster states: “Millions of Americans hold legitimate concerns about the integrity of the 2020 election. Though there were no reported voting irregularities in South Carolina, voter fraud remains a persistent and pervasive threat to the strength of our democracy.”
South Carolina’s proposed changes won’t spark the outcry that has accompanied action by lawmakers in states such as Georgia, where reiterating ID and signature requirements have been wrongly mischaracterized as “racist” and labeled even by President Joe Biden as an “atrocity.”
In our state, the focus is on strengthening the State Election Commission’s authority to standardize election practices in the 46 counties. It would give the state commission power to “supervise” how county boards of elections operate in ensuring that state laws are followed in each county.
In a letter to lawmakers, McMaster cited state law requiring a witness signature on absentee ballots, with the governor saying the law was not followed by all counties in the state. “Some counties were employing a hodgepodge of different and inconsistent processes.”
While that was in part due to a series of court rulings that put the requirement in off-again, on-again status, ensuring consistency is necessary going forward.
The biggest hang-up in the legislation is changing the makeup of the State Election Commission.
Under current law, the governor appoints the five members of the board. One must be a member of the majority party in the General Assembly and another a member of the minority party.
The proposed changes call for five members of a nine-person board to be appointed by the governor. Four of those five could be from the governor’s political party.
The president of the Senate would appoint two members, one selected with the recommendation from the majority party in the Senate and one from the minority party. The speaker of the House would have to do the same as the Senate president and chose one person appointed by the majority party and one from the minority.
Democratic foes contend the changes will make the commission more partisan, while proponents say it diversifies the commission through new voices in making appointments.
Republican or Democrat, the bottom line for any member of the commission is not politics. It is ensuring that election law is followed by providing necessary oversight. The legislation reinforces the importance of that mission.