Today, LDF sent a letter urging Beaufort County, South Carolina officials additional early voting centers for the November 2022 election in Beaufort County, and to do so in locations that are more accessible for Black voters.
South Carolina law authorizes counties, including Beaufort County, to designate up to seven early voting centers for an election. In doing so, counties “must consider geography, population, and ADA compliant accessibility and they “must distribute the locations throughout the county to maximize accessibility for all voters in the county to the greatest extent possible.” Under each of these criteria, as well as considerations of fairness and racial equity, Beaufort County’s current early voting plan falls short.
Currently, Beaufort County plans to open just four early voting center to serve all 138,839 registered voters. This would likely result in long lines and crowding at the polls. These four early voting centers do not appear to be equally accessible for the County’s communities of Black voters, raising concerns that Black voters in Beaufort County may be denied an equal opportunity to participate in the political process during early voting in the November 2022 election.
The four early voting centers identified are grouped in the county’s central and southern portions. None of these centers is suitably located for Black voters in the county’s northern portions. The communities of Sheldon, Yemassee, and Seabrook stand out as particularly underserved. Each of these communities has a significantly higher proportion of Black residents than Beaufort County as a whole—while the county’s overall population is only 17.2% Black, Sheldon’s population is 79.4% Black, Yemassee’s population is 64.6% Black, and Seabrook’s population is 54.4% Black. The closest early voting center to Sheldon, Yemasse, or Seabrook is the County Voter Registrations and Elections Office which is more than 9 miles of driving distance away from Seabrook, 15 miles away from Sheldon, and 22 away miles from Yemassee.
Read the full letter here.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.