Finally, Hilton Head voters can request absentee ballots online. Here’s what happened

In runoff, Hilton Head mayoral candidates will need votes in these precincts to win

Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race
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Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race

Voters on Hilton Head have a very short window to vote absentee in the mayoral runoff election, but officials made it even more difficult for residents who will be away during the election next week — one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County Director Marie Smalls said voters couldn’t access a link to apply for an absentee ballot online for three days after the link was supposed to go live Saturday.

Voters only had a total of six days to apply for the application, and the mistake cost voters three of those days.

On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the link was back online and working for the first time since the general election.

Smalls did not return any of the Island Packet’s phone calls or an email on the issue Monday, when the office was closed for Veterans Day.

Smalls said the board was unaware of the broken link before Tuesday morning, and said it was “not turned on” by the South Carolina Election Commission, meaning no one was able to request an absentee application.

Last week Smalls said the link would be active after the official canvass of votes on Nov. 10.

Absentee voting has a quick turnaround in runoff elections — the Town of Hilton Head Island code mandates a runoff take place two weeks after the general election.

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That turnaround is under even more pressure because of the close mayoral race and the date of the runoff election, which will happen two days before Thanksgiving.

Both candidates, John McCann and Kim Likins, have said they are concerned about the fast-approaching deadlines for absentee voting and what that means for voter turnout.

How to vote by mail

Request an application

Voters can obtain an application in one of three ways:

  1. Now that the link is fixed, voters can go online to download and print an absentee application. The application must be turned in by Friday.

  2. You can contact the county voter registration office via phone or email and an application will be mailed or emailed to you. The phone number for the Beaufort County voter registration office is 843-255-6900. You can call or email the office for an absentee ballot as of Nov. 7.
  3. You may also get an application for an absentee ballot at the Bluffton satellite office, located at 61 Ulmer Road in Bluffton.

Complete and sign your application

Once you fill out your application, you must return it by Friday, Nov. 16 — four days before the election.

In Beaufort County, applications must be mailed to:

  • 15 John Galt Road

    Post Office Drawer 1228

    Beaufort, SC 29901

Receive your absentee ballot

Once your application is processed, you will receive your absentee ballot in the mail at the address you listed on your application.

Read the absentee ballot instructions and fill out the ballot accordingly.

The mayoral race is the only Hilton Head race that has gone to a runoff election.

Return your absentee ballot

You must return your ballot to the county registration office by 7 p.m. Nov. 20, election day. You can return the ballot in person or by mail, using the address above.

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Another person may return your ballot for you, but you must fill out an authorization form with the county voter registration office in order to do so, according to the website.

How to vote in person

Go to the county voter registration office, located at 15 John Galt Road in Beaufort, or the satellite office at 61 Ulmer Road in Bluffton, fill out an application and cast a ballot.

Smalls said the office is “hoping to have in-person absentee voting starting Wednesday,” Nov. 14.

In order to absentee vote in-person, you must have a valid form of photo ID. You must cast a ballot by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, the day before the election.