COLUMBIA — South Carolina election officials are using flawed data that include dead people as they deal with implementing a new state law requiring that people have photo identification when they cast ballots in person, according to an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The South Carolina State Election Commission and the DMV had matched data on licenses, ID cards and voter records as part of the new law, now under review by the U.S. Justice Department.
The election agency reported in October that nearly 240,000 active and inactive voters lacked South Carolina driver’s licenses or ID cards. The DMV’s analysis shows that more than 207,000 of those voters live in other states, allowed their ID cards to expire, probably have licenses with names that didn’t match voter records or were dead.
Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said Thursday there are flaws in the data and the agency will eliminate the names of nearly 60,000 deceased people and individuals whose names didn’t match. But the agency would rather cover too many people in its outreach program than not do enough, he said.
Kevin Shwedo, the DMV’s executive director, sent the analysis to the state attorney general’s office on Wednesday as the state responds to Justice Department questions. Because of past voting rights violations, all South Carolina voting and election law changes are reviewed by federal authorities. A decision could come by Tuesday. Whitmire said the commission is preparing to implement the law before the Jan. 21 GOP primary.
The DMV’s findings are important because the Election Commission is preparing to spend taxpayer money to mail written notices to each of the voters identified about the law change and the credentials they must have to vote in person. Meanwhile, voter groups and media outlets were recently told they’d have to pay $25 to get a copy of a list that the DMV now says contains what the agency says is flawed data.
The findings also raise new questions about the commission’s information on voters.
For instance, the DMV found that the Election Commission had “several instances of seemingly incongruous, illogical or nonconforming data” that included what appeared be a 130-year-old voter, 25 voters registered at a Sumter County jail and 19 registered at a Myrtle Beach Post Office. The commission “even told us that they knowingly changed Social Security numbers by a single digit when they moved from one county to another because their computers were incapable of acknowledging the same number as part of the transfer process from one county to another,” Shwedo wrote.
Whitmire said he couldn’t explain all of the oddities or the Social Security number issue. But he noted that state law allows people who are in jail awaiting trial to register and vote. Meanwhile, the Myrtle Beach addresses only suggest that people had bad addresses on their voter registration cards.
Shwedo told Jay Smith, the attorney general’s director of consumer protection and antitrust, that his staff tried to brief Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino on the findings but she canceled her appearance and sent someone else.
The Election Commission is updating its voter ID list. Shwedo said he would review that data, too.
“We now wait patiently to see whether the SCEC will acknowledge our research or knowingly pass on flawed data,” Shwedo wrote.