S.C. will pay postage for all mail-in ballots in November


COLUMBIA (AP) - The South Carolina State Elections Commission has agreed to provide prepaid return postage for all absentee ballots by mail this November.

The joint agreement, filed in federal court Wednesday, follows a lawsuit by individual voters and multiple Democratic party groups earlier this year over voting access and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plaintiffs argued the requirement for voters to pay the return postage was akin to a poll tax. They said people buying stamps would likely have to break social distancing protocols and interact with other people to do so, thus potentially furthering the spread of COVID-19.

The election commission estimates providing the postage will cost the state between $750,000 and $1.2 million, commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told the Post and Courier.

The suit is one of several filed over voting-related issues in the state this year.

Voters in the state usually have to provide a specific reason for voting absentee, such as being 65 or older or having a physical disability. State lawmakers agreed to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots in this year's June primary but have not done so for the general election.