“On-again, off again: Court nixes SC witness requirement on absentee ballots — for now”

The State:

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond has, at least temporarily, reinstated a ruling by a South Carolina federal judge that would allow S.C. voters who vote absentee to do it without having a witness signature.

The ruling was the latest major turn of the screw in a voting rights issue that ultimately could affect up to an estimated 1 million voters in the state who the S.C. Election Commission has said may vote absentee. South Carolina has approximately 3 million eligible voters.

The reversal and reinstatement of U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs’ Sept. 18 order came shortly after 8 p.m. Friday. Its effect was to waive the voter witness signature requirement and came over the heated written objections of two 4th Circuit judges, J. H. Wilkinson and Steven Agee.

In any case, the matter is likely to be dealt with speedily. Under existing law, judges are not supposed to issue decisions that could interfere with rapidly approaching elections — a point made by Judges Wilkinson and Agee in their dissent.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly cautioned us not to interfere with state election laws in the “weeks before an election,” wrote Wilkinson and Agee. “The district court (Judge Childs) failed to give this command proper weight.”

Underscoring their displeasure with the full 4th Circuit court’s decision to overturn their panel, Wilkinson and Agee wrote, “The majority’s disregard for the Supreme Court is palpable.”

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