FLORENCE, S.C. — A South Carolina lawmaker is calling for further limitations on voting by mail.
S.C. Rep. Wallace H. "Jay" Jordan Jr. of Florence spoke Tuesday at a town hall event at the monthly meeting of the Florence County Republican Party held at the former West Florence Fire Department fire station on Pine Needles Road.
Jordan began his remarks with a joke.
Earlier in the meeting, his father-in-law, Pastor Bill Monroe of the Florence Baptist Temple, joked before the prayer that he was going to do a tell-all on Jordan.
"When your father-in-law stands up and says he's going to give the inside scoop on you, I'm telling you, it gets real," Jordan said. "You start thinking about options to get out of the building, especially if he's a Baptist preacher."
Jordan had driven to Tuesday's meeting from Columbia. Tuesday was the first day of the 124th session of the South Carolina General Assembly.
He said that the assembly was off to a good start. He then joked that there were no fist-fights and nothing was broken inside the Statehouse.
"Which these days is a good thing," Jordan added.
After his remarks, Jordan took several questions, including three about election integrity.
Some members of the Republican Party question the integrity of the most recent general election.
Jordan said that he was proud of the way the state handled voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. He later said the state had taken a very conservative position on the expansion of absentee voting during the pandemic.
He said that the virus put a strain on everything but was also dangerous for election integrity.
"In my humble opinion, of all the ways to vote, whether it's absentee − early voting in person − voting in person [on the day of the election], voting by mail is probably the worst way to vote," Jordan said.
He added that there are certain people that need to be able to vote by mail.
"What my hope is moving forward is that we'll still have that way to vote by mail, but we'll limit it to folks that truly need it," Jordan said. "Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in the concept of election day."
This drew loud applause.
"I would like to see us, and legislation has been introduced in the House [to] ... turn election day into what it was," Jordan said. "Let's make it a holiday. I think most employers would say let's shut things down as best we can and let's all go vote. Let's show up and cast the ballot at the ballot box."
Jordan added that voting on election day is the best, most efficient way for most people to do it.
Jordan also addressed a number of issues during his remarks and the question-and-answer session.
COVID-19, the state budget, and spending plans
On COVID-19, Jordan said the issue would continue to impact state government going forward. Jordan added that Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. and S.C. Rep. Phillip Lowe − Jordan and Lowe are seatmates − would have been at the meeting but were called to stay in Columbia due to their service on the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.
Both of those committees are responsible for developing a state budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
"That process starts full speed today," Jordan said. "They're trying to get a budget ready so that when we get back and get going when we get to spring, we can have a budget ready to roll out for state government."
Jordan said that the state government is not immune to the effects of the pandemic. He added that he had been criticized for his stance that the state government should continue to operate on the previous year's budget in order to have funds available should the economy continue to deteriorate.
He also said that hopefully the assembly would be able to tackle issues such as teacher pay increases.
"The good news is that we have a lot of savings, I guess you'd say," Jordan said. "Our economy, like a lot of states leading up to COVID, was really humming. From my prospective in Columbia, I can't tell you a time when we had a better economy leading up to COVID."
Jordan added that what would have been a $2 billion state surplus has been cut in half.
He also said that he, like many folks, is disappointed in the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the state. Jordan said he and other members of the House met Tuesday with Gov. Henry McMaster and indicated that the process should speed up over the next week or so.
Fetal heartbeat bill
Talking about the bill drew applause from the Republicans attending the meeting.
Jordan said being pro-life was one of the most important issues to him and one of the main reasons he ran in a 2015 special election for the House District 63 seat he holds.
"South Carolina has a great history of being a pro-life state," Jordan said. "Sadly, the last few years, we've fallen behind in comparisons to other states on the issue."
Jordan added that he is optimistic that increased Republican majorities in the Senate and House would allow the assembly to approve the bill.
Convention of States
Larry Hill, a member of the county party leadership team, asked Jordan about the formation of a convention of states and if the state would become the 16th state to ask for such a convention.
The proposed convention would work to enact Constitutional amendments to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and impose term limits on elected officials.
Jordan said it was more likely than not.
He added that he thought the House Judiciary Committee chair [Chris Murphy] would need to put it on the agenda for that committee of which Jordan is a member to consider.
"I think in the House we have the numbers to pass the Convention of States," Jordan said. "I can't speak for what will happen in the Senate. Obviously the Senate is a different Senate than it was last year. ... While I can't say for sure, it's in better position than it has been to this point."
Jordan said an ad-hoc redistricting committee would be tasked with redrawing the districts for the 124 state House seats, the 46 state Senate seats and the seven House seats the state has. He said the committee was in the process of being formed by the assembly now.