Politics & Government

In-person absentee voting opens Monday. Here’s what’s at stake

In-person absentee voting for two municipal elections and the Beaufort County school bond referendum on Nov. 5 will start on Monday.

Bluffton and Port Royal residents who have registered as absentee voters can cast their ballots for the municipal elections starting Monday until Nov. 4. Beaufort County residents can also vote in-person absentee on 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. The last day for in-person absentee voting is Nov. 4, the day before the election, and both offices will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The deadline for registering to vote has passed. Residents planning to vote absentee in person must visit the county voter registration office, complete an application and cast their ballot. Those 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 no later than the Friday before the election, receive their absentee ballot in the mail and return the ballot to the registration office by 7 p.m. the day of the election.

South Carolina is one of nine states — Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — without early voting options, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Instead, S.C. allows residents to 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.

Bluffton election

With newcomer Nickey Maxey dropping out of the race in mid-September, three candidates remain in the race for two open seats on town council. Newcomer Bridgette Frazier is challenging incumbents Harry Lutz and Dan Wood in the municipal election on Nov. 5. Mayor Lisa Sulka is running unopposed for her fourth term as mayor.

The major issues facing Bluffton, according to those running for office, include: uncontrolled residential and commercial growth, insufficient affordable housing, workforce shortages, overcrowded schools and concerns over water quality.

Port Royal election

Town Council member Mary Beth Gray-Heyward and resident Joe DeVito, a retired utility operations manager and volunteer on several government boards, are running for the mayor’s seat. Longtime mayor Sam Murray is not running for re-election.

Port Royal residents will also choose from three candidates for two open town council seats. Incumbents Jerry Ashmore and Robert Landrum are running for re-election, while attorney and newcomer Kevin Phillips is seeking a seat.

Issues facing the town: regulation of short-term vacation rentals, the future of the town shrimp dock, and continued redevelopment of the Port of Port Royal.

School bond referendum

On Nov. 5, Beaufort County residents will also vote in a special election with a $345 million school bond issue on the ballot. The referendum will be in two parts, and voters must pass Part One, a $291 million package, for Part Two to pass.

Part Two of the referendum is a $54 million package.

The money will pay for school repairs, safety upgrades and new construction.

The Growth and Development Reporter for the Island Packet, Kacen Bayless is a native of Ballwin, 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.