Student Voting Guide | South Carolina
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 that we issued last 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 in October 2012.
The deadline to register to vote is 30 days before the election unless the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday. For the 2012 general election, the last day to register to vote is October 6, 2012.
Voters who have a South Carolina driver's license or DMV ID card can register online at the South Carolina Election Commission website. Registration forms are also available to download and print here. If you register by mail to your county registration office, your application must be postmarked by October 6, 2012. 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.
If the county voter registration board finds you to be qualified to vote, you will receive a voter registration card. 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). If you lose or damage your voter registration card, you may request another.
You may register to vote if you will be 18 by the next election. If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.
At School. You may register to vote in South Carolina if you reside there while attending college. 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. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.
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. 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. The following documents stating your physical mailing address in South Carolina will usually be accepted to prove your residency: a valid photo ID (note that student photo IDs do not ordinarily state a physical address and are therefore not accepted); a tax return; a driver’s license; a car registration; a utility or tuition bill; or a bank statement; a current utility bill; a current government check; a current paycheck; or a current government document with your address. Anyone can challenge your registration by writing to the registration board, and the board will hold a hearing and make a decision. If the board rejects your registration, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas and then to the Supreme Court.
Poll watchers, other voters, and poll workers can all challenge your eligibility to vote based on residency at the polls. If your eligibility is challenged, you will have to vote by provisional ballot. 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. If no one shows up to support the challenge to your eligibility, or if the canvassing board decides that you are qualified, your vote will be counted.
Voting in South Carolina may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.
In order to vote in person at the polls for the 2012 general election, you will have to show either a valid photo ID from the South Carolina DMV or your non-photo voter registration card with your signature on it. If you registered to vote by mail, are voting for the first time, and did not submit proof of ID with the application (see Registration above), you may not vote with just the voter registration card; you must provide additional ID, such as a driver’s license. If you cannot show a photo ID or a signed registration card, you can vote by provisional ballot, which will be counted if the canvassing board determines that you are an eligible voter.
Beginning in 2013, voters will have to show a valid photo ID from the South Carolina DMV, a voter registration card with photo, a U.S. passport, or a federal military ID with photo in order to vote in person at the polls. However, voters who have a religious objection to being photographed or who have a reasonable impediment to obtaining photo ID will still be able to vote, but will have to complete an affidavit provided to them at their polling place stating the reason that they do not have photo ID.
You may vote absentee in South Carolina if you provide a legitimate reason for not showing up to the polls on Election Day. One legitimate reason is that you will be absent from your county on Election Day because you are attending school elsewhere. To vote absentee, you must request an absentee ballot application from your county registration office and return the application to your county registration office, either by mail by 5 p.m. on the fourth day before Election Day or in person by 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day. To be counted, your completed ballot, together with an oath signed by you and witnessed by someone else, must be received by your county registration office by the close of polls on Election Day.
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).
You may also cast your absentee ballot in person at your county registration office any time after absentee ballots become available until 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day, provided that you have a legitimate reason for not showing up to the polls on Election Day.
Last updated in October 2012
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-150 (2011).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-155.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-125(A).
 See S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-710.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-125(B).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-120(A)(1).
 http://www.scvotes.org/south_carolina_voter_registration_information (last visited on July 5, 2012).
 See S.C. Code Ann. § 7-1-25(B), (D)(3).
 See S.C. Code Ann. § 7-1-25(A), (D)(10).
 See S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(A).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(A).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-5-230(C).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-810 (2011).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-830.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-17-10.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-17-830.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-710.
 http://www.scvotes.org/south_carolina_voting_information_page (last visited on July 5, 2012)
 http://www.scvotes.org/2012/09/24/new_photo_id_requirements_not_yet_in_effect (last visited October 16, 2012)
 See S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-830.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-320.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-320(1).
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-330.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-220.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-230.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-330.
 S.C. Code Ann. § 7-15-320.