Arthur Ravenel Bridge

New Absentee Rules for the 2020 General Election

H.305/R.149, signed into law on September 16, 2020, made significant changes to absentee voting rules for the November 3, 2020 General Election. 

  • All voters are now qualified to vote absentee under the “State of Emergency” reason.
    • “State of Emergency” does not apply to any other election.
  • Deadline to apply for an absentee by mail ballot:
    • Applications for absentee-by-mail ballots must be received by the voter registration office by 5:00 p.m., Saturday, October 24
    • An Authorized Representative acting on behalf of a voter who is unable to go to the polls due to an illness or disability may return the application by 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 30.

Witness Signature Required

  • The witness signature requirement for mail-in absentee ballots was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 5.
  • Under the court's order, any ballots received by county officials through October 7 will be counted regardless of whether the return envelope has a witness signature.
  • To ensure your absentee ballot counts:
    • Sign the voter's oath on the return envelope.
    • Have a witness sign and provide address.  Any other person can be a witness.
    • Return your ballot before 7:00 p.m. on November 3.  Ballots can be returned in person or by mail.  You should mail your ballot as soon as possible and at least a week before election day to allow time for delivery before the deadline.

How to Vote Absentee in the 2020 General Election

In Person

Step 1: Visit your county voter registration office or extension office.

  • Begins Monday, October 5.
  • Ends 5:00 p.m., Monday, November 2.

Step 2: Complete an application.

Step 3. Cast your ballot. 

By Mail

Step 1:  Get your application (available now).

Get the application online.    You must be able to print your application.


Call or email your county voter registration office.  You will be mailed an application. 

  • A member of a voter's immediate family or Authorized Representative can also request the application (see Authorized Representative below).

Step 2:  Complete, sign and return the application to your county voter registration office.

  • Return by mail, email, fax or personal delivery. 
  • Return as soon as possible and no later than 5:00 p.m., Saturday, October 24.
  • An Authorized Representative must return the application by 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 30 (see Authorized Representative below).

Step 3:  Receive your absentee ballot in the mail. 

Step 4:  Vote and return the ballot to your county voter registration office or extension office.

  • Be sure to sign the voter's oath.  See note at the top of this page regarding witness signatures.
  • Return your ballot either by mail, personal delivery or authorized returnee (see Authorized Returnee below).
  • Your ballot must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3.
  • If returning your ballot by mail, mail it as soon as possible, preferably a week before election day, to help ensure timely delivery.
  • You can check the status of your absentee ballot at 

Authorized Representative

  • An Authorized Representative (Representative) is a registered voter who acts on behalf of a voter who is unable to go to the polls because of either:
    • An illness or disability resulting in the voter’s confinement in a hospital, sanatorium, nursing home, or place of residence; or
    • handicap rendering the voter unable to vote at his polling place due to existing architectural barriers that deny him physical access to the polling places, voting booth, or voting apparatus or machinery.
  • Candidates and paid campaign workers may not serve as a Representative except for immediate family members.
  • A Representative must complete the Authorized Representative form.
  • A Representative may:
    • Request a voter’s application.
    • Return the application through 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 30.
  • The ballot will be mailed to the voter.

Authorized Returnee

  • An Authorized Returnee (Returnee) is a person who can be authorized by any voter to return the voter's absentee by mail ballot. 
  • Candidates and paid campaign workers may not serve as a Returnee except for immediate family members. 
  • The voter and Returnee must complete the Authorization to Return Absentee Ballot form. The Returnee must present the form when returning the ballot.