Last week was the 15th week of the 2022 legislative session. There are 3 legislative weeks remaining before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 12, 2022. Here are the highlights from last week’s action in the Senate:
Ensuring Election Integrity – The Senate passed H.4919, a bill that would strengthen South Carolina’s election laws. The bill would make it easier to vote and harder to cheat by doing the following:
- Eliminates ‘fusion candidates’ by requiring candidates to select one party and instead of appearing on the ballot for multiple political parties
- Strengthens the requirement that absentee ballots must be witnesses by requiring not just a witness’ signature but also the witness’ printed name and address. The witness would also have to be over 18 years old.
- Reduces ballot harvesting efforts by limiting the number of absentee ballot applications that may be picked up and delivered from no limit to five. A campaign volunteer could not request or return absentee ballots for someone other than immediate family members.
- Reiterates South Carolina’s long-standing prohibition on ballot drop boxes by requiring absentee ballots that are returned in person to be delivered to an election official
- Requires photo ID for persons returning absentee ballots
- Secures absentee ballots by mandating that absentee ballots may not be opened for tabulation until Election Day.
- Reiterates that the South Carolina State Election Commission may establish uniform statewide election procedures and standards. Counties may not set their own rules.
- Requires an annual purge of voter registration rolls to protect the integrity of the process and maintain accurate, current voter registration records,
- Strengthens voter registration identification by requiring DHEC to submit a monthly report of individuals who have died in-and-out of the state and requires DMV to submit a list of non-citizens licenses to use for voter roll cleanup.
- Voting systems may not be able to be connected to the internet, wireless connections to an outside network and may not be able to make automatic ballot corrections. Records of each ballot must be kept for 24 months.
- SEC must establish methods for auditing election results including hand counts, risk-limiting audits and use of independent vendors for fair and thorough audit of all elections in the State. Audits of elections must be made publicly accessible on the SEC website.
- Prohibits the State Election Commission or other county elections boards from receiving private funds, grants or contributions for elections.
- Creates an Election Integrity hotline with SLED to record, review and investigate allegations of election violations.
- Makes violations of election law a felony punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and imprisonment up to five years.
- Creates a two-week, no-excuse early voting period for all elections.
- Requires Senate Advice and Consent for the Governor’s nominees for the State Election Commission and the Commission’s selection for the executive director who runs day-to-day operations.
The last point, Senate advice and consent for commission appointments and the executive director, has received a good deal of conversation the past several days. Right now, the governor appoints all commissioners with no legislative check. To my knowledge, the state election commission is the only major state agency that does not require Senate advice and consent for agency leadership. The governor is opposed to that change, but there is a reason the Senate has insisted on advice and consent. You can read my statement here.
Ultimately, advice and consent is about accountability and ensuring that the laws are enforced. I outlined above a number of strong and necessary changes to our election laws that are included in the bill. Those changes are designed to prevent potential problems identified by citizens and seen in other states. But none of those changes will matter if the state election commission does not enforce the law. Ensuring the election commission enforces the law is the very reason the Senate included advice and consent in the bill.
The House of Representatives now has the bill. Despite what some allege, I am confident the House, Senate, and Governor will agree on a strong election integrity bill before the legislature adjourns.
2022-2023 State Budget – The Senate will begin debate on the 2022-2023 state budget on Tuesday. You can see the Senate Finance Committee’s proposed line items for each state agency here and the proposed provisos (policy statements and directions) for each section here. I expect the debate will last the full week, possibly more.
SCDOT Road Projects – SCDOT has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here. https://scdot.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=ca1cd69fc88945f4bb465e16765d761c
How is the gas tax being used? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here. https://www.scdot.org/inside/new-gastax-trustfund.aspx
Want to see the General Assembly in Action? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 12:00, Wednesdays at 1:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and some committees here http://scstatehouse.gov/committeevideo.php
Our Senate District – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here South Carolina Senate Districts (arcgis.com)
Beginning with the 2024 election, Senate District 25 will include all of Edgefield and McCormick Counties and parts of Aiken, Lexington, and Saluda Counties. You can see the new district, effective in 2024, here South Carolina Senate H.4493 (arcgis.com)
Voting Record – If you’d like to see how I’ve voted on issues, go here South Carolina Legislature Online – Member Biography (scstatehouse.gov). You can always check to see how I vote by going to my website, www.senatormassey.com, and clicking on the “Voting Record” tab.
Speaking with Groups – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
Email updates – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Email – email@example.com
Cell Phone – (803) 480-0419