Voters cleared in South Carolina, not that you’ll ever hear the results of the investigation:
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — No one intentionally cast a ballot in South Carolina using the names of dead people in recent elections, despite allegations to the contrary, according to a State Law Enforcement Division report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the agency to investigate last year after the Department of Motor Vehicles determined in early 2012 that more than 900 people listed as deceased also had voted in recent years.Wilson referred the information to state police, saying that the number of people cited in the analysis “is an alarming number and clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.”
State Election Commission director Marci Andino had her staff take a look at questionable votes from the November 2010 general election, or about 200 of the more than 900 votes total – information that was also ultimately analyzed by the law enforcement division. Nearly half of the issues could be attributed to clerical errors, while several dozen resulted from DMV officials running Social Security numbers of voters against dead people but not seeing if the names matched. Several other issues arose from ballots cast by men with the same names as their deceased fathers.
The DMV’s initial analysis had been part of a research project on South Carolina’s new voter ID law, which was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department on the basis that it was prejudicial to minorities. Wilson, a Republican, subsequently successfully sued the federal government, and the law that requires people to have government-issued identification or a new state voter-registration card went into effect this year.
After DMV Director Kevin Shwedo testified before state lawmakers about his agency’s findings, Republican lawmakers and other elected officials immediately said the analysis and possible voter fraud showed why the new law was necessary.
Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, who sits on the panel before which Shwedo appeared, questioned the expense of the police investigation, as well as the origin of the numbers to which Shwedo testified.
“What they used were fictitious numbers to promote a regressive piece of legislation,” he said. “They needed something to grasp ahold of to justify taking steps backward in our voting-rights laws. … It’s apparent that we were lied to, and that’s troubling.”
The Division’s determination was first reported by The Columbia Free Times, which obtained the report through an open records request.
The journalism team at Fox News pushed this fairy tale hard, because they were selling a voter ID law:
The South Carolina “dead voter” claim sprang from testimony from Kevin Schwedo, the director of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, who said on January 11, 2012, that more than 950 residents were recorded as having cast a vote after their reported death date. Schwedo made clear that this could have been the result of data errors or voters dying after casting an absentee ballot, but the state’s Republicans, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson, seized on the report as evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Wilson took his campaign to Fox News, where he received a platform for softball interviews from several anchors. The network used the “dead voter” story to promote South Carolina’s voter ID law, which had been blocked by the Justice Department.
Indeed, on July 3 the public release of an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) provided the answer we anticipated: No voter fraud was found, no charges filed. As of noon E.T. on July 8, Fox had not reported on those findings.
The “dead people are voting!” stories are as regular as rain around election time. Is there widespread confusion on the difference between “voter lists” and “voting”? Why? Once again, media go with treating voters with suspicion based on little or nothing. It’s a strange way to look at voters, because we’ve traditionally treated voting as desirable civic engagement not as evidence of a possible criminal conspiracy. Someone was lying and manipulating here, and it wasn’t the unfairly maligned voters in South Carolina. It was state officials working with Fox News.