Voter FAQ

Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions about voting in South Carolina

If you have any other questions about your voter registration status or application, click here, or please contact your county board of voter registration. If you don't see your question listed below please feel free to contact us.

What is South Carolina's new voting system and how does it work?

South Carolina has been using the ExpressVote ballot-marking system in all elections since October 1, 2019. After checking in at your polling place, you will be given a blank ballot and be directed to an ExpressVote. You insert the ballot into the ExpressVote to begin making your selections on a touchscreen. Making selections on the touchscreen is very similar to making selections on the old voting system. After making your selections, you will do a final review then print your ballot. To cast your vote, you will be directed to a ballot scanner. Review the selections on your printed ballot and insert it into the scanner. The scanner tabulates the votes on your ballot and feeds the ballot into a locked ballot box. The paper ballots are then used to verify and audit election results. Click here for more on South Carolina’s Voting System.

What are the benefits of a ballot-marking device?

Ballot marking devices (BMDs) offer many of the benefits of touchscreen voting machines while also providing the assurance and security of a paper ballot.

  • BMDs are fully accessible for people with disabilities allowing every South Carolinian to vote independently using the same equipment. Hand-marked paper systems are not accessible and require voters with disabilities to vote with assistance or on a device different from other voters.
  • BMDs prevent voters from overvoting (selecting more candidates than allowed). Hand-marked paper ballots can be overvoted. Election officials are unable to determine voter intent in an overvoted office leading to the voter’s vote not being counted.
  • BMDs prevent stray marks. Unintended marks on a paper ballot can cause overvotes or votes to be cast differently than intended.
  • BMDs prevent improper marks. Voters do not always mark paper ballots by filling in the oval as instructed. It is common for voters to circle a candidate’s name, make a check mark, or even cross through a name. Improper marks require election officials to try to interpret these marks to determine voter intent. Ultimately, marking the ballot differently than instructed can cause a voter’s vote to not be counted.
  • BMDs reminds voters if they have undervoted (missed an office or voted for fewer candidates than allowed).
  • BMDs offer the easiest transition for voters. South Carolinians have been voting on touchscreens for the past 15 years. Voting on the ExpressVote will offer a familiar experience with the added assurance of verifying their vote on a paper ballot.
Are South Carolina's elections secure?

Our Top Priority

The mission of the S.C. State Election Commission (SEC) is to ensure every eligible citizen has the opportunity to register to vote, participate in fair and impartial elections, and have the assurance that their votes will count.  Fundamental to this mission is ensuring the security and integrity of elections in South Carolina.  Elections face numerous threats from a wide variety of actors including nation states, individuals and organizations – all with various motives.  We recognize these threats, and we want voters to know we have made it our top priority to take all reasonable measures to improve and protect the security and resilience of our state’s election infrastructure.

Our Security Team

To address these threats against critical infrastructure, the SEC has developed an unprecedented security partnership of state, federal and private cybersecurity professionals as well as state and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides a multitude of resources and services including cyber hygiene scanning, risk and vulnerability assessments, and security training.  DHS also provides communication and collaboration through information sharing, alerts, in-person support from cybersecurity and physical security advisors, and incident response services.

The S.C. Department of Administration, Division of Technology houses and secures the state’s voter registration system. The Division of Technology manages, monitors, and performs vulnerability scans for the statewide voter registration system and agency networks.

We have also partnered with a private cybersecurity firm to provide risk and vulnerability assessment, management and remediation, as well as advice on strengthening our security posture.

In addition, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) provide information sharing and incident prevention and response support.

Our Approach

We are taking numerous actions that include installing and reconfiguring equipment and software, revising policies and procedures, and improving and expanding training and awareness initiatives.  These actions are designed to ensure a strong and resilient election infrastructure that will continue to serve citizens in the face of any adversity.

  • Network Based Security – Networks are protected against threats using various tools and concepts including firewalls, intrusion prevention and detection systems, network sensors, 24/7 monitoring, data encryption, incident reporting mechanisms, software application patch management, two-factor user authentication, user password strength requirements, and user password expiration.
  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessments – Cyber and physical security assessments and penetration tests are performed to identify any vulnerabilities.  All vulnerabilities, regardless of severity, are addressed immediately.
  • Training and Education – We work to establish a strong security culture by training election officials to follow security policies and procedures and to recognize cyber threats and attack methods including identifying phishing emails and other social engineering attacks.  Users are required to complete cyber security training before being granted access to systems and on an ongoing basis to maintain access.  The SEC conducts field audits to ensure election officials are following security policies and procedures.
  • Voting System Security – Before being used in a South Carolina election, the voting system was tested and certified by a testing laboratory approved by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and was tested by the SEC to ensure the system met the requirements of state law.  Logic and accuracy tests are performed before every election to ensure the system is tallying votes correctly.  Ballot-marking devices, scanners and computers used to tabulate results are never connected to the internet.  Voting system security plans and procedures are in place to insulate the system from unauthorized access including secure storage, access logs, data encryption, and data transfer through secure endpoints. Election results are tallied and reported publicly at the precinct-level, then at the county and state levels providing multiple checkpoints in the process.  Post-election audits are conducted prior to certification of an election.

Securing Future Elections

Security is a never-ending process. We remain vigilant as the election environment changes and new threats emerge. We must rise to meet those threats by establishing new layers of security to further build the resilience of our state’s election infrastructure.

Considering the significant efforts being made to secure our elections, we want you to go to the polls and vote with confidence knowing your vote matters, and your vote will count. Our democracy depends on it.

Is the voting machine connected to the Internet while I am voting?

No. The voting unit is never connected to the Internet. Additionally, the voting units are not connected to each other. Each is a standalone, self-contained unit.

I’ve moved and haven’t updated my voter registration card. Can I still vote?

If you moved to…

1.  …another residence within your precinct, you can vote at your polling place but must first fill out a change of address form.

2.  …a different precinct within your county, you are eligible to vote a failsafe ballot (see below).

3.  …another county within 30 days of the election, you are eligible to vote a failsafe ballot (see below).

4.  …another county prior to 30 days before the election, you had to register by the deadline and are not eligible to vote.

Two Options for Voting Failsafe:

  1. Vote at the polling place in your previous precinct using a limited, failsafe ballot including only federal, statewide and countywide offices.
  2. Go to the voter registration office in the county in which you currently reside, update your address, and vote a full ballot there.
I have moved to South Carolina after the 30 day voter registration deadline, can I still vote?

Federal legislation 1965 Voting Rights Act, as amended, section 42 USCA 1973aa-1 permits a voter who moves to a new state within 30 days prior to the Presidential election (and who may therefore fail to qualify for voter registration in their new state) to vote for President and Vice President only in their state of former residence. In South Carolina, this means a registered voter of another state who has moved to SC after the registration deadline may vote in their former state for President and Vice President only. That voter should contact their former voting office to request a ballot. If a registered voter of a South Carolina county moves to another state within 30 days (or after that state’s registration cut-off), this voter may contact their former county office and request an absentee ballot for President and Vice-President only. The voter would go through the normal absentee voting procedures, either by mail or in person. The former county is responsible for furnishing this voter a ballot for President/Vice President. A voter who has moved to another state within this deadline also has the option of returning to their former precinct and voting in person at the polls for President and Vice President only. This will probably require the voter to cast a provisional ballot.

Confirmation Card Mailings

Confirmation Card Mailings are conducted every two years in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and are necessary for maintaining accurate voter registration lists.  Confirmation card mailings normally result in a decrease in total voter registration statewide.  In a confirmation card mailing, a postage-paid return postcard is sent to every voter who has not voted or updated their address during the past two general election cycles (approximately four years).  If the card is not returned, or is returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable, the voter is made inactive.  Even though these voters are made inactive and reduce the number of active registrations seen in statistical reports, these voters continue to be listed on voter registration lists at polling places for another two general election cycles (approximately four years) before dropping off of those lists.  If voters vote during that time, their records are reactivated.

It is also important to understand that a voter’s name not being on the voter registration list at the polling place does not necessarily mean the person cannot vote. Whether any individual person is qualified to vote in any election is determined by the facts of their circumstance not by whether their name is on the list. Procedures are in place at polling places for poll managers and county election officials to determine whether a voter whose name is not on the list should be allowed to vote or not.

While these protections are vital to ensuring every South Carolinian’s right to vote, some of them can be confusing and cause delays on election day. Each individual voter can do their part to ensure their opportunity to vote by taking responsibility for their own voter registration. You should check your registration at scVOTES.gov on a regular basis, and if you move or change your name, you should update your registration immediately and at least 30 days prior to any upcoming elections.

What do I take with me to the polls to vote?

When voting in person, you will be asked to show one of the following Photo IDs:

  • A valid SC Driver’s License
  • SC Department of Motor Vehicles ID Card
    • includes SC Concealed Weapons Permit
  • SC Voter Registration Card with Photo
  • US Passport
  • Federal Military ID
    • includes all Department of Defense Photo IDs and the Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Card
What if I don’t have one of these Photo IDs?

If you do not have one of these Photo IDs, you can make your voting experience as fast and easy as possible by getting one before Election Day.  If you are already registered to vote, you can go to your county elections office to get a SC Voter Registration Card with Photo.  You will need to provide your date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.  You can do this even on Election Day.  Free DMV ID Cards are also available from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If you cannot get a photo ID, bring your non-photo voter registration card with you to the polling place.  You may vote a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit stating you have a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID.  A reasonable impediment is any valid reason, beyond your control, which created an obstacle to obtaining a photo ID.  Some examples include:  a disability or illness, a conflict with your work schedule, a lack of transportation, a lack of a birth certificate, family responsibilities, a religious objection to being photographed, and any other obstacle you find reasonable.  This ballot will count unless someone proves to the county board of voter registration and elections that you are lying about your identity or having the listed impediment.  To vote under the reasonable impediment exception:

  1. Inform the poll managers that you do not have a photo ID and could not get one.
  2. Present your current, non-photo registration card.
  3. Sign the affidavit provided by the poll managers stating why you could not obtain a photo ID.
  4. Cast a provisional ballot that will be counted unless the county board of voter registration and elections has reason to believe your affidavit is false.
Does my Driver’s License/DMV ID Card have to be a REAL ID?

No.  You can vote with either a regular Driver’s License/DMV ID Card or a REAL ID.

What happens if I have a Photo ID but forget to bring it to my polling place?

If you forget to bring your photo ID to your polling place, you may vote a provisional ballot that will count only if you show your photo ID to your county elections office prior to certification of the election (on Friday after the General Election).

I’ve lost my Photo ID. Can I still vote?

Yes. See the answer to the previous question “What if I don’t have one of these Photo IDs?” for details.

I’ve lost my non-photo voter registration card. Can I still vote?

Yes. Your voter registration card is your notification that you have registered to vote and shows your precinct and polling place.  Your non-photo voter registration card is not necessary to vote unless you are voting under the reasonable impediment exception.  See answer to previous Question “What if I don’t have one of these Photo IDs?” for details.

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

Visit the absentee voting page for information on applying for an absentee ballot.

Where can I find candidate and referendum information?

The best source of candidate and referendum information is your county board of elections/voter registration. Your county should be able to provide you with a sample ballot or other information about county specific ballot information. You can also click here to get a copy of your sample ballot at scVOTES.gov.

How are election results posted for poll watchers?

A small printer, much like the one used in adding machines, is attached to the voting unit. It is in a locked compartment during voting hours. After the polls close, a poll manager prints the vote totals for each candidate in each contest. After the poll manager signs the printed report, the report is posted on the wall, as has been done in the past.

What are official results?

After the election, a canvass is conducted to review accumulated votes. Results from individual voting units are uploaded into a new election configuration and compared with the election night totals. Only after the six member Board of Canvassers review and verify these results are they considered official.

When is a recount necessary?

When the difference between any winning candidate and any other non-winning candidate is 1% or less of the total votes cast for all candidates for that office, a recount is mandatory.

When I left the polls, I was asked to participate in an "exit poll." Is this legal?

Exit polls are legal and participation is voluntary.  They are NOT conducted by the State Election Commission or county election offices.  Exit polls may not be conducted inside the polling place, and voters should not be approached as they enter the polling place.  If you feel threatened or intimidated by a pollster, report it immediately to the poll clerk.

I saw a candidate/member of candidate’s campaign at my polling place talking to voters. Can he do that?

Yes, but there are restrictions:

Inside the polling place:  No campaigning is allowed.  Candidates may be inside the polling place and talk to voters as long as they are not campaigning, intimidating voters, or interfering with the election process.

Within 500 feet of an entrance to a polling place:  Candidates and campaign staff may campaign as long as they are not intimidating voters or interfering with the election process.  However, no campaign literature, signs, or posters are allowed.  Candidates are allowed to wear a badge no larger than 4.25” x 4.25” featuring only the candidate’s name and office sought.  Candidates must remove their badge upon entering a polling place.

A candidate is definitely campaigning while in the polling place. What can I do?

Inform the poll clerk immediately.  If the issue is not resolved, contact the county elections office.  The board will address the complaint.

Can candidates or their representatives take people to the polls to vote?

Yes.  It is permissible for any person, even a candidate, to give a voter a ride as long as it is being done solely to help facilitate voting.  However, no one can give a voter anything of value in exchange for voting.

Can I take my child with me to vote?

Yes.  Minor children (under age 18) of a voter may accompany the voter in the voting booth.

Are “ballot selfies” legal? Can I take a picture of my ballot and share it with others?

No.  State law prohibits anyone from showing their ballot to another person (S.C. Code of Laws Section 7-25-100).  The use of cameras is not allowed inside the voting booth.

Can alcoholic beverages be sold on Election Day?

Yes, the ban on the sale of alcoholic liquors on statewide election days was lifted as of July 1, 2014.  For more information contact the S.C. Department of Revenue, (803) 898-5864.

Where can I report an issue or file a complaint about the election?

Any issues or complaints regarding a polling place on Election Day should first be addressed to the poll managers.  Poll managers may be able to quickly resolve the issue.  If not resolved at the polling place, or if the issue or complaint is regarding some other aspect of the election, voters should contact their county elections office.