Republican fight for power threatens early voting for SC

COLOMBIA, SC ( Associated Press) — Truly early voting likely Upcoming elections in South Carolina appear to be dying after the state House and the governor accused the Senate of power-grabbing by giving them the ability to confirm the governor’s selection for the state election board.

Governor Henry McMaster told at least one senator he would veto a bill that passed unanimously In both the House and the Senate if the changes made by the Senators are not removed.

bill Might not be able to do that far. The House is set to reject the bill, instead accepting the Senate’s changes to give the state election commission the power to approve or turn down governor’s appointments. Both sides agree that the agency’s director should have a Senate talk.

House Speaker Jay Lucas said Thursday that the Senate version “eliminated any real opportunity for election reform this year” while placing the blame on Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey. The governor, House, and Senate leadership are all Republican, although the governor and the House often align, leaving the Senate on its own, such as differences over proposals to raise teacher pay. or cut taxes.

Lucas said, “After two years of hard work by many in both houses, it is a shame that the Senate Majority Leader has made unnecessary, rather than necessary, concrete steps to make the South Carolina election the safest in the United States.” decided to increase his power. said in a statement.

Instead of sending the bill to a small conference committee of senators and members of the House to work on a deal, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said that if changes were not offered, the House would send the bill back to the committee. Such a move is likely to eliminate it for this year and mean the proposal will start back to square one in the 2023 session after the November elections.

As a result of the settlement, the bill was passed unanimously in both the houses. It will open polling places for regular early voting two weeks before the election, except on Sundays. And it would expand state-run audits of voting machines and post-election vote counting and increase penalties for voter fraud.

But after the bill was passed in the House, the Senate added to it the ability to approve not only the director of the state election commission, but also the five members of the board that oversee the agency.

Massey insisted on the provision, saying the governor did nothing when MPs were furious In the agency to consider ballots during the 2020 election and eliminate the signatures of witnesses on absentee ballots without their approval. Executive Director Marcy Andino left on his own To join a non-profit election protection organization.

“There is no check yet. nobody is here. Not only does the governor do nothing, but they are all still there,” Massey said.

In a speech Wednesday on the Senate floor, Massey said he would call the House threatening to scrap the bill since he faces re-election this year.

“The idea that the governor would veto it in an election year, along with everything else — I say no,” Massey said.

Senators voted 35-9 to reject the motion to return to just one say in the director.

McMaster did not publicly threaten his veto, but wrote on twitter Massey misled the Senate over a “common sense compromise” shortly before the Senate passed the bill. His staff said the proposal does not allow the governor to make temporary appointments to the board when the Senate is not in session after May, when both primaries and general elections are held.

“If this bill doesn’t become law, voters will know who is to blame and why,” McMaster said.

State Sen. Tom Davis, who nearly two decades ago was the legislative liaison for then-government, Mark Sanford, said he understood the Senate’s desire for more oversight. But Beaufort Republicans said in the case they should accept oversight in additional reports, potentially killing a bill the state election commission would have to give lawmakers instead of what nearly everyone in South Carolina wants.

“I’m really worried about a lot of good work that will come to naught,” Davis said. “If we don’t pass this election reform bill, there will be hell to pay.”

The state allows absentee voting in person before elections, but voters are required to sign a form with an excuse, as if they would be out of town or working at the time of voting.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP,

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