Student Voting Guide | South Carolina

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of South Carolina.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state in which you attend school.  If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, a report we issued this year documents a number of these changes and we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here.

While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

You may register to vote if you will be 18 by the next election.[1] The deadline to register to vote is 30 days before Election Day.[2]  The last day to register for the 2014 general election is October 4, 2014.

Voters who have a South Carolina driver’s license or South Carolina DMV ID card can register online. If you do not have a South Carolina driver’s license, you can register by mail. Registration forms are available online to download and print. If you register by mail to your county registration office, your application must be postmarked by the registration deadline.[3] You can check your registration online,

If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote.[4] If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.

If you are registering for the first time in your county, you should attach a copy of a current valid photo ID or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address in the county.[5]

If the county voter registration board finds you to be qualified to vote, you will receive a voter registration card.[6] You should sign and hold on to your voter registration card and carry it with you to the polls in case you do not have a valid photo ID from the South Carolina DMV (see Identification section below).[7] If you lose or damage your voter registration card, you may request another.[8]

Residency

At School.  You can establish your residency in South Carolina if you have a present intent to remain at your South Carolina school address and to make it your principal home for the time being.[9] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[10] The State Election Commission has clarified that you may register to vote in South Carolina if you reside there while attending college.[11]

At Home.  If you leave your South Carolina home to attend school, you are allowed to register to vote using your parents’ South Carolina address.[12] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency in South Carolina, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to South Carolina with the intent to reside there, you will have to follow the normal registration procedure to re-register in South Carolina (see Registration section above).

Challenges to Residency.  The county voter registration board may ask you to prove your residency when you try to register.[13] Anyone can challenge your registration by writing to the registration board, and within 10 days of the challenge the board will hold a hearing, give you the opportunity to present evidence of your South Carolina residence (such as with official documents including your South Carolina address), and make a decision.[14] If the board rejects your registration, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas and then to the Supreme Court.[15]

Poll watchers, other voters, and poll workers can all challenge your eligibility to vote based on residency at the polls.[16] If your eligibility is challenged, you will have to vote by provisional ballot.[17] On the Thursday (if the election is a primary) or the Friday (if the election is general) following the election, the county canvassing board will meet to decide whether to count your provisional ballot.[18] If no one shows up to support the challenge to your eligibility, or if someone does but the canvassing board decides that you are qualified, your vote will be counted.[19]

Voting in South Carolina may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Identification

In order to vote in person at the polls, you will have to show either a:[20]

  1. South Carolina driver's license; or
  2. photo ID issued by the South Carolina DMV; or
  3. passport; or
  4. military ID; or
  5. South Carolina free voter registration card with a photo.[21]

However, if you have a religious objection to being photographed or you have a reasonable impediment to obtaining photo ID, you can still vote, but will have to complete an affidavit provided to you at your polling place stating the reason that you do not have photo ID.[22] This ballot will count unless someone proves to the election commission that you are lying about your identity or about having the impediment,[23] or you registered for the first time by mail, and did not provide any proof of identification whatsoever either at the time you registered, or before or after you cast the provisional ballot.[24]

Absentee Voting

You may vote absentee in South Carolina if you provide a legitimate reason for not showing up to the polls on Election Day.[25] One legitimate reason is that you will be absent from your county on Election Day because you are a student.[26] To vote absentee, you can get an application online and then print and return it to your county registration office, either by mail, fax, or email (in certain counties) by 5 p.m. on the fourth day before Election Day or in person by 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day.[27] For your vote to be counted, the county registration office must receive your completed ballot, together with an oath signed by you and witnessed by someone else,[28] by the close of polls on Election Day.[29]

If you are a first-time voter and you did not submit proof of your South Carolina address with your registration form, you will have to provide a copy of that proof with your absentee ballot application or absentee ballot (see Residency section above).[30]

Last Updated August 15, 2014


[1] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-120(A)(1).

[2] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-150.

[3] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-155.

[4] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-120(A)(3).

[5] See South Carolina Voter Registration Mail Application, http://www.scvotes.org/files/VR_Blank_Form.pdf.

[6] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-125(A).

[7] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-710.

[8] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-125(B).

[9] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-1-25.

[10] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[11] South Carolina Voter Registration Guide – Students, S.C. State Election Comm’n, http://www.scvotes.org/south_carolina_voter_registration_information (last visited on August 14, 2014).

[12] S.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-1-25(A), 7-1-25(D)(10) (location of parents one salient factor in determining residence).

[13] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(A).

[14] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(A).

[15] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(C).

[16] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-810.

[17] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-830.

[18] S.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-17-10 (general elections); 7-17-510 (primary elections).

[19] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-17-830.

[20] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-710(A).

[21] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-675. You can find out more about getting this free ID card at http://www.scvotes.org/2012/09/24/photo_id_requirements (last visited August 14, 2014).

[22] Id.

[23] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-710(D).

[24] 42 U.S.C.A. § 15482(a)

[25] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-320.

[26] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-320(A)(1).

[27] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-330 (“Applications must be accepted by the county board of registration until 5:00 p.m. on the day immediately preceding the election for those who appear in person and are qualified to vote absentee pursuant to § 7-15-320.”).

[28] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-220.

[29] S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-230.

[30] 42 U.S.C.A. § 15483(b)(1).