U.S. Supreme Court allows South Carolina vote-by-mail restriction

A restrictive Republican-backed law in South Carolina that requires voters to have a witness sign mail-in ballots has been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democrat Party in the state has challenged the law, due to concerns that it will hinder voting and force gatherings during the pandemic.

Voters must have witness sign ballots for the Nov. 3 election

Some of the millions of mail-in election ballots are shown at the Orange County Registrar of voters before being sent to the U.S. Postal Service for delivery to voters in Santa Ana, Calif., on Monday. South Carolina has implemented a new law that requires a witness to sign mail-in ballots. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ensured that a restrictive Republican-backed law in South Carolina that requires voters to have a witness sign mail-in ballots will be in place for the Nov. 3 election.

The justices, granting a request by various Republican officials, put on hold a lower court ruling that had blocked the restriction. The court, in a brief order, said that ballots already sent would not have to comply with the signature requirement.

The law was challenged by a group of Democratic voters and the state Democratic Party, who argued that requiring a witness to sign ballots would endanger people during the coronavirus pandemic and could decrease voting.

Various Republican state officials, including members of the state's election commission, asked the Supreme Court to allow the law to be in effect for the election after a federal judge on Sept. 18 blocked it from being implemented for November.

The full Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the judge's ruling.

Some 150,000 mail-in ballots already have been distributed to South Carolina voters.

Voting by mail has long been a regular part of American elections and mail-in ballots are expected to be widely used during the pandemic as voters seek to avoid election day lines and crowds at polling places.

President Donald Trump, a Republican seeking re-election, has attacked the integrity of mail-in voting.

Trump has made unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots are especially vulnerable to fraud and suggested without evidence that their widespread use would lead to a "rigged election."