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      South Carolina not an early voter state

      Florida voters can cast their ballots early during the two weeks before elections. / Bay News 9

      There are two weeks to go before Election Day, but thousands of Horry County residents have already voted. They cast absentee ballots, though that's not an option available to everyone.

      Many states have some type of early voting law. South Carolina does not. South Carolina has absentee voting, which isn't the same thing, and many voter-rights advocates say our state's absentee law doesn't go far enough.

      Voting machines are already lined up at the Voter Registration Office in Conway, ready to go into action on Election Day. Deborah Sharpe already voted - absentee. "If you're handicapped or whatever, or you have a problem standing for long periods of time, it makes it much easier for them."

      Before you can cast an absentee ballot in South Carolina, you have to sign an oath, swearing that you meet one of the 17 criteria required to vote absentee. "You've got military, you've got persons 65 and older, admitted to the hospital within a 3 day period, death in the family, vacation, work," said Sandy Martin, Horry County's election director.

      But, the county doesn't check to see if you really will be out of town on Election Day or fit into one of the other criteria.

      Nearly 30 states have no excuses early voting laws, which allow people to vote weeks in advance of Election Day, without having to meet any criteria. The League of Women Voters supports that kind of law for South Carolina, with league officials saying if voting was easier, more people would do it.

      Martin believes South Carolina will eventually make the change to an early voting law. "I think you'll see South Carolina go in that direction. They tried it this year, but it didn't pass. But, it'll come up again."

      The knock on early voting is that there are always things that could come up in the last days before an election that might make people change their minds about their vote.

      The South Carolina president of the League of Women Voters said there are always risks, but voting is a fundamental right and it ought to be easier.

      About 4,000 Horry County voters have cast absentee ballots since the voting period started about two weeks ago.