In light of the larger "war on voting," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) raised a few eyebrows last week when he claimed over 900 dead people voted in the state's Republican presidential primary. Wilson, of course, wasn't alleging zombie voters, but rather, he believed he'd uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud.
State Election Commission director Marci Andino testified that some of the voters the DMV data said were dead are very much alive -- and were eligible to cast a ballot. [...]In a news release that election agency spokesman Chris Whitmire handed out prior to the hearing, the agency disputed the claim that dead people had voted. One allegedly dead voter on the DMV's list cast an absentee ballot before dying; another was the result of a poll worker mistakenly marking the voter as his deceased father; two were clerical errors resulting from stray marks on voter registration lists detected by a scanner; two others resulted from poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter above or below on the list.The attorney general's office had only given the State Election Commission six names off its list of 950 or so names to examine. The agency found every one of them to be alive and otherwise eligible to vote, except for the one who had voted before dying.
The odds are quite good that if Wilson's office had been willing to subject its list to more scrutiny, we'd see even more debunking of the initial claim.
As Kevin Drum explained over the weekend, "This is the story of voter fraud in a microcosm. Claims of fraudulent voting become urban legends practically before the first YouTube video goes up on someone's website, but upon investigation the actual incidence of voter fraud turns out to be virtually nonexistent."
Quite right. In fact, the larger context here is critical: Republican officials in South Carolina are desperate to impose harsh new restrictions on voting, and are looking for real-world evidence to create a need for these curbs. Joan McCarter explained, "Remember, the Department of Justice has blocked South Carolina from implementing a voter ID bill passed last year under the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the new law would create an unconstitutional impediment to voting by certain groups."
GOP officials in the state hoped these new allegations of fraud would bolster their case. So far, this hasn't turned out well for them.