A top legislative is to ensure free, fair, and secure elections to strengthen public confidence in the electoral process. Our elections are the foundation of our representative form of government.
The House Oversight Committee spent much of last year probing the election process and determined there was a great deal of non-uniformity in the way elections were conducted around our state. The SC House is dedicated to combating all accounts of voter fraud and inconsistencies, which was our major focus this past week.
Fortifying Election Integrity
I voted in favor of a bill that drastically improves and fortifies the integrity of our election system here in South Carolina. There are several different safeguards and protections of this bill (H.4919), but notably, this bill improves identity verification and addresses early voting and absentee voting. Here are the bill’s major accomplishments:
- Makes election fraud a felony and creates a SLED hotline to report suspicious activity at the polls.
- Requires all voters to attest that “to their knowledge” they are not registered to vote in a state other than South Carolina.
- Requires a photo ID to return an absentee ballot in-person as is needed on Election Day. To submit an absentee ballot application, the last four digits of a voter’s social security number must be provided for identity verification.
- Requires the witness of every absentee ballot to be verifiable by supplying a printed name, signature, and address.
- Creates a system where deceased individuals are quickly purged from the voter roll.
- Improves cybersecurity, by ensuring ballot machines will never be connected to the Internet.
- Creates an ‘early voting’ system, which extends 2 weeks before an election for all qualified voters.
- Modifies the reasons that an absentee ballot can be cast by replacing being “on vacation” with “absent from the country for the duration of early voting and Election Day.”
- County Boards of Voter Registration and Elections must decide locations for early voting, considering geography, population, and ADA compliance. Boards must distribute the locations throughout the county to maximize accessibility for all voters. The Executive Director of the State Election Commission may, at his discretion, direct the movement of early voting centers to ensure proper distribution through each county.
- Eliminates the ‘10 miles apart’ rule for polling locations, allowing polling places to be closer than 10 miles apart if it better accommodates the population.
- Allows absentee ballots to be opened before the election for quicker election results when polls close but makes disclosing information about results a punishable offense.
Eliminates Fusion Voting
- Prevents candidates from being nominated by more than one political party or appearing on the ballot more than once.
The elimination of fusion voting is particularly important to me. I have championed the elimination of this archaic election process that was popular in the 1800s and has since been eliminated by most states. The legislation I sponsored (H.3206) was folded into this election integrity bill.
It was gratifying to see this comprehensive election integrity bill receive bi-partisan support, signified with a unanimous vote from every member of the House who was present. This is the second week in a row a major House bill has received unanimous support – indicative of solid legislation that works towards the House’s common goal of making South Carolina a better place to live, raise a family, and own a business. I hope that the Senate will support this important legislation soon so that we can adopt these protections and fortify our elections in South Carolina.
VOTE ON CONVENTION OF STATES IMMINENT!
The Senate is poised to vote next week on the Resolution that would make SC the 19th state to call for an Article V Convention of States to push back on the over-reaching, bloated federal government. This vote has been more than seven years in the making. The Senate Rules Committee voted to place H.3205 on special order giving it primary status for debate. The House passed the Resolution during the final week of the session last May. I’m the primary sponsor of this legislation and have championed it since 2013. This week, I wrote an Op-Ed that was published in the Aiken Standard: Convention a Solution to Runaway Government. (Read Here).
The Great Tax Race
As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, the SC House and Senate are challenging each other on who can be more aggressive in cutting state income taxes. Last week, the House unanimously passed legislation cutting and simplifying the individual income tax rate by lowering the top bracket from 7% to 6%. This week a Senate panel advanced their bill lowering the top individual rate to 5.7% and reducing manufacturing property taxes from 9% to 6%.
DHEC Break Up
The Senate will soon debate a bill that carves up the Department of Health & Environmental Control into two agencies. The proposal establishes a new Department of Behavioral & Public Health that would incorporate the current Department of Mental Health. The other new agency would handle environmental and water issues. Both would be cabinet-level agencies reporting to the Governor. Many believe DHEC has become far too expansive and splitting the agency would be more efficient.
Both the House and Senate saw bills that will penalize Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. The legislation would divest the state’s public retirement funds from any assets owned or controlled by Russia and would prevent the SC Retirement System from investing in any assets that are owned or controlled by Russia. The House bill also prevents the SC Department of Commerce from offering or rewarding economic development incentives to any company that is at least 50% owned by an entity that is a subsidiary of the Russian Government. Another House bill would prevent retailers from selling any liquor that was manufactured or produced in Russia.
CRT Hearings Continue
Both the House and Senate are working to clamp down on the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in SC’s public K-12 schools. The House held another lengthy hearing that extended well into the evening hearing testimony from citizens. The House committee will hold a third and final hearing next Tuesday, March 8. I am the primary sponsor of one of the bills under consideration, The S.C. Academic Integrity Act (H.4343), which calls for curriculum transparency.
House Approved Move of Vietnam Monument
The House gave unanimous approval to H.3679, which authorizes the City of Aiken and Aiken County to approve the moving of the Vietnam monument in downtown Aiken to Veterans Memorial Park on Richland Avenue East. The move has been sought by the Aiken County Veterans Council to provide a more suitable and accessible site for the monument. Legislative approval is needed because the monument falls under the SC Heritage Act. The bill was sent to the Senate.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Want to Know More?
Want to learn more about me, my positions, bill sponsorships, voting record, and past writings? Here are some handy links:
- About Me: https://taylorschouse.com/about-2/
- My Positions: https://taylorschouse.com/issues/
- Sponsored Bill & Voting Record: http://tiny.cc/b1pouz
- Recent Newsletters: https://taylorschouse.com/category/newsletter/
I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service. If you need assistance during these trying times, navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about the legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me.
In Your Service,
South Carolina General Assembly
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