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Early voting in SC is good for democracy

Throughout the country, it’s clear that election policy has become a contentious and divisive issue. But here in South Carolina, we know that we can accomplish anything if we work together.

Earlier this year, my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the General Assembly were able to come to a bipartisan agreement that made some much-needed improvements to our election system.

Now, granted, I’m not in love with every single line of this bill, nor are my Republican friends across the aisle, but that’s what it means to legislate and keep our state moving in the right direction. What I’m proud of are the significant improvements we made to South Carolina’s early voting system — improvements that are making a real difference for voters this election cycle.

The agreement we forged provides for two weeks of honest-to-goodness, no-excuse-needed early voting in our elections. Voting began Monday, and now any eligible voter in South Carolina is able to cast his or her ballot from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Sundays, for two weeks, no excuses necessary.

This is fantastic news for several reasons. First, it’s going to cut down substantially on wait times for voters come Election Day. When we can spread the sheer volume of voters heading to the polls out over 13 days, lines are shorter, polling places are less crowded, and poll workers aren’t overwhelmed. This means voting doesn’t have to be more than a few-minutes affair. You can get it out of the way early, and then you don’t have to worry about it.

Secondly, early voting accommodates eligible South Carolinians who may not otherwise have time to vote on Election Day. Lots of folks work on Tuesdays, and some won’t be able to take the time off to go to the polls. These hard-working voters deserve to have their voices heard in our elections, and with two weeks of early voting, many more of them will be able to.

Lastly, early voting improves the security and integrity of our elections. Spreading out the work of election administration across the early voting period and Election Day reduces the stress put on the system, making it less prone to human errors that must be corrected later when the votes are counted.

I’m proud of the work we were able to do to improve South Carolina’s elections earlier this year. At a time when partisanship and polarization seem to have infected every facet of human life, South Carolina was able to forge a reasonable compromise that garnered near-unanimous support from both parties.

The early voting provisions of this compromise will cut down on wait times voters face at the polls, accommodate hard-working South Carolinians whose voices deserve to be heard and promote the security and integrity of our elections by reducing stress on the system.

Those provisions also appear to be a smashing success so far: The State Election Commission reported that by late Monday afternoon, about 40,000 people had already voted early, almost doubling the previous one-day record for early voting set on June 10, the last day of early voting in our statewide primaries.

If you’re eligible to vote, then you’re eligible to vote early, and I encourage you to do so.

Opinion in the Post and Courier by State Rep. Spencer Wetmore, D-Folly Beach, who faces Republican challenger Carroll O’Neal in this fall’s elections for the District 115 House seat.

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