The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday to reinstate a South Carolina requirement that mail-in ballots submitted by state residents be signed by a witness.
Democrats in the state pushed to have the requirement, which had been in place since 1953, waived because of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans contend that the requirement discourages fraud. In September, a U.S. District judge put a hold on the requirement, but a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the hold. The full panel of the same court later ruled in favor of the hold.
A lawsuit on the matter is still in process, but per the Supreme Court ruling, ballots cast after the ruling must have a witness's signature. However, any ballot cast prior to the ruling "and received within two days of this order may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement," the court noted.
More than 200,000 absentee or mail-in ballots have been mailed to South Carolina residents, according to information from the state election commission. Eighteen thousand have been returned.
Drew McKissick, chairman of South Carolina's Republican Party, described Democrat's opposition to the requirement as "efforts to hijack a pandemic and use it to meddle with our election laws."
"We're pleased the Supreme Court reinstated the witness signature requirement and recognized its importance in helping to prevent election fraud," he said.
Trav Robertson, chairman of the Democratic Party of South Carolina, disagreed.
"Our hope is that no one gets COVID-19 trying to find a witness," Robertson said. "We are disappointed but elections have consequences."