JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
More than 300 Airmen, Sailors, civilians, dependents and distinguished visitors attended a bill signing ceremony, Aug. 17, at Nose Dock 1 at Joint Base Charleston-Air Base, to witness South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ceremoniously signing S. 404, the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voters Act.
According to a recent article from the Pew Center on the States, Haley signed the act into law this past June. The law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, makes it easier for South Carolinians abroad to participate in federal, state and local elections.
"The one thing as a military family that we love is that South Carolina is a very patriotic state," Haley said. "Our [military] participation rates our high. We have more people wanting to serve than we actually have spaces for. We have people that, when you are in the line at the gas station, they pay for your gas. If you are at a restaurant, they buy your meal. And if you are in your uniform they just say 'thank you for your service.'
"The people in South Carolina feel a strong connection to the military because it's our families that we see deployed over and over again. It's our men and women that we watch sacrifice for our rights and liberties every day."
Specifically, the legislation streamlines the voting process and removes obstacles that military and overseas voters commonly encounter by mandating that absentee ballots be sent at least 45 days before any election, providing electronic transmission of unmarked absentee ballots for all elections and accepting the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot for all elections as a back-up measure for voters who don't receive their official ballots in time. The bill also eliminates the witness requirement on ballots from military and overseas voters.
"Making sure you can vote if you're serving overseas is one of the simplest things that we can do as leadership," Haley said. "We appreciate the scarifies that our men and women across this country make for us, but we want you to know that the support for you and your family is one that will continue long after you finish your time and long into the rest of our brothers and sisters time."
Col. Richard McComb, Joint Base Charleston commander, said voting in elections is the single most important civic duty that any citizen can perform.
"Just as our country relies on our strengths and bravery, as the military, our country expects us to continue to participate in our civic duties; volunteering in our communities, paying taxes and voting in elections," McComb said. "This piece of legislations will make it easier for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to cast their ballot no matter where their duties may take them."
2nd Lt. Susan Carlson contributed to this article.