Can’t make it to your polling place on Election Day? Here’s how you can still vote

Early absentee voting polls opened Monday morning for Beaufort County residents who are unable to vote on Election Day, Nov. 5.

Starting Monday and until Nov. 4, residents who live in Bluffton, Port Royal and Yemassee and have registered as absentee voters may cast their ballots in person for the municipal elections. Residents in Beaufort County, which includes a portion of Yemassee, may also vote in-person absentee in the school bond referendum.

The Beaufort voting office, 15 John Galt Road, and the Bluffton office, 61B Ulmer Road, will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Just after the Beaufort office opened at 9 a.m. Monday, Marie Smalls, director of the Board of Voter Registration, said two voters had cast absentee ballots in person. She said she expects between 2,500 and 3,000 people to vote absentee in person by Nov. 4.

In-person absentee?

South Carolina is one of only nine states without early voting options, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Instead, S.C. residents can vote absentee in-person if they meet one of the qualifications by completing an application before casting their ballot.

The S.C. Election Commission’s website lists 16 qualifications to vote absentee. They include voters who are physically disabled, attending school outside of their county or are members of the armed forces.

To vote absentee in person, residents must visit the county voter registration office, complete an application and cast their ballot. Voters must have their ballots in by 5 p.m. the day before the election. Residents planning to vote by mail must access the application online or request it by mail, complete and return the application to the county voter registration office “as soon as possible” or no later than 5 p.m. the Friday before a Tuesday election, receive their ballot in the mail and return it to the registration office by 7 p.m. the day of the election.

The Elections

In the Bluffton municipal election, three candidates are vying for two open seats on town council. Newcomer Bridgette Frazier is challenging incumbents Harry Lutz and Dan Wood, while Mayor Lisa Sulka is running unopposed for her fourth term.

For the first time since 1995, Port Royal residents will have a new mayor. With longtime mayor Sam Murray not running for re-election, Port Royal voters will decide between Town Council member Mary Beth Gray-Heyward and resident Joe DeVito for the seat. Voters will also choose from three candidates for two open town council seats: incumbents Jerry Ashmore and Robert Landrum and attorney Kevin Phillips.

In Yemassee, a town that straddles Beaufort and Hampton counties, newcomers Robert Bobby Moore Jr. and Darrell A. Russell will challenge incumbents Peggy Bing-O’Banner and Afred Washington. Yemassee residents living in Beaufort County may cast their votes at the Beaufort voting office, 15 John Galt Road, and those living in Hampton County may vote in person absentee at the Hampton County Board of Voter Registration & Election, 201 Jackson Avenue West.

Beaufort County also has a special election Nov. 5 — a $345 million school bond referendum. If voters approve, the bonds will pay for school repairs, safety upgrades and new construction. The bond issue will appear in two parts on the ballot, and voters must pass Part One, a $291 million package, for Part Two, a $54 million package, to pass.

A reporter for The Island Packet covering local government and development, Kacen Bayless is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. In the past, he’s worked for St. Louis Magazine, the Columbia Missourian, KBIA and the Columbia Business Times. He graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree with an emphasis in Investigative Reporting from the University of Missouri in 2019.