Election Commission: No evidence of voter fraud

But attorney general calls report ‘premature’

abeam@thestate.com February 23, 2012 

The State Election Commission said Thursday that 95 percent of the 207 allegedly dead people who voted in the 2010 general election either were alive and cast ballots legally or did not vote.

But, citing limited manpower and money, the commission said its review of zombie voters did not include 696 other allegedly dead voters whom some state officials say cast ballots in elections before 2010.

However, Attorney General Alan Wilson Thursday said his office still is investigating the allegations along with SLED.

“Everything we do in prosecution and law enforcement is expensive. No question. As a prosecutorial agency, however, we can’t pass the buck on a case because it is expensive,” said Mark Plowden, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. “We don’t believe you can perform 20 percent of an investigation on potential criminal activity and throw in the towel and call it a day.”

The results are important in South Carolina’s ongoing battle to enforce its controversial new voter ID law. That law requires voters to show a valid picture ID before casting a ballot.

Republicans say the law is needed to protect against voter fraud. Democrats say the law discriminates against poor voters and African-American voters. Some, Democrats say, were born in the segregated South and do not have birth certificates required to get a driver’s license in South Carolina.

The U.S. Justice Department has objected to South Carolina’s voter ID law, delaying its enactment. Wilson has asked a judge in Washington, D.C., to overturn that objection.

Thursday, Wilson’s office called the release of the commission’s report “premature.”

In an appearance on Fox News in January to discuss the voter ID law, Wilson said: “We know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina,” according to a clip of the appearance on YouTube.

Plowden said Thursday that all Wilson was saying was “we need to find out what the facts are.”

Democrats pounced on the commission’s review as proof the voter ID law is unneeded.

“There is no evidence of voter fraud in South Carolina,” said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. “We cannot stick our heads in the sand and give a reason as to why it’s needed and then try to justify the reason after the fact.”

In a letter to Wilson, the Election Commission acknowledged the investigation is not over. But the commission said its part in the inquiry is finished, and that is why it chose to release its findings.

“I get calls here on an almost daily basis from voters who have it as an established fact in their mind that people are casting votes for deceased voters,” said Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the Election Commission. “We recognize the desire and the need of the public to know about what we found.”

Of its review of the 207 contested votes cast in 2010, the commission found:

• 106 votes were clerical errors by poll workers – mistakes like marking John Doe Sr. instead of John Doe Jr.

• 56 votes were “bad data matching” – meaning the state Department of Motor Vehicles, which raised concerns about zombie voters, was wrong in assuming the voters were dead.

• 32 votes were “voter participation errors,” meaning someone was credited as voting in an election when they did not, most likely because of a stray mark on the voter rolls that was electronically scanned to record a voter’s participation.

• Three ballots were cast absentee by voters who died before Election Day.

The Election Commission said it had “insufficient information” to explain the 10 contested votes because:

• In seven cases, the voters’ signatures on poll records could not be matched to “another voter.”

• In two cases, the poll list is missing “making it impossible to match the signature with another person.”

• In one case, the voter’s signature appeared to match a voter in another precinct “but could not be verified.”

Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office are meeting with SLED officials today at 9 a.m. to discuss the case. A SLED spokeswoman declined to comment, saying only the investigation is continuing.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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