PICKENS COUNTY — Attorney General Alan Wilson has taken action to protect voting rights in South Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence by asking the courts to extend the deadline to register to vote.
According to Robert Kittle, spokesperson for the AG’s Office, the actions — if adopted — would affect the entirety of South Carolina, not just the areas affected by the flooding.
“The way the state’s constitution is written, it can’t be restricted to isolated areas,” Kittle said. “It would be the whole state.”
Currently, in order to vote in the 2018 General Election, state residents must be registered to vote before Sunday, Oct. 7.
The problem is that thousands of South Carolina voters in the northeastern part of the state have been driven from their homes by the flooding from Hurricane Florence, said Kittle. Additionally, some counties’ voter registration offices are closed because of the flooding and hundreds of roads are closed, so even if would-be voters could get to a voter registration office they couldn’t register.
Wilson filed a lawsuit that was officially accepted Thursday evening in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas against State Election Commission Director Marci Andino asking the Court to extend the voter registration deadline for 10 days, to Oct. 17.
“The right to vote is fundamental,” Wilson said in the complaint. “To protect this right to the extent possible in the wake of a major hurricane causing unparalleled flooding, the Executive Director must be directed to set a voter registration of Oct. 17, for both in-person registration and by mail.”
But it’s not a done deal: A court’s ruling is needed because state law requires someone to be registered to vote at least 30 days before the date of an election.
The General Election will be held Nov. 6.
“The State Election Commission has been contacted by several groups and one county board on behalf of voters who are worried about the impact of Hurricane Florence and ongoing flooding on many South Carolina residents’ ability to register to vote,” said Kittle. “The Attorney General’s complaint asks the Court to issue an order setting the voter registration deadline as Oct. 17 for both in-person registration and by mail and to direct the executive director of the State Election Commission to do whatever is necessary to make sure that deadline is implemented.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.