A year and a half after a zombie voter fever fell over Republicans in campaign mode, a state police investigation found no indication that anyone purposefully cast a ballot using the name of a dead person in South Carolina.
Responding to an open records request, the S.C. Law Enforcement Division today released its final report to Free Times, one day before a federal holiday. SLED found no indication of voter fraud.
For a while last year, you couldn’t turn on Fox News without seeing S.C. GOP Attorney General Alan Wilson saying things like, “We know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.”
Attorney General Alan Wilson was unavailable for comment, but his spokesman, J. Mark Powell, passed along a statement.
“The initial claims reported to the Attorney General’s Office were alarming," Powell said. "They were not vague allegations, but contained specific information. The state’s chief prosecutor cannot stand by when presented with such a situation. So SLED was asked to investigate this matter. We appreciate SLED’s hard work in preparing this report.”
A spokesman for SLED declined to comment on the nearly 500-page report.
Stoking the zombie-voter fire back then was a list of some 950 names that Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s DMV director, Kevin Shwedo, said were those of dead people that appeared to have voted in recent elections.
“Well over 900 individuals appear to have voted after they died,” Shwedo said at one House hearing on the matter.
Horry County Republican Rep. Alan Clemmons, who took much interest in the dead voter drama, proclaimed gravely in another hearing, “We must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting.” (During the state’s battle over Voter ID legislation a year prior, Clemmons had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in support of the measure that read in part, “It is an unspoken truth in South Carolina that election fraud exists.”)
At the time, State Election Commission director Marci Andino said the agency had investigated a handful of cases where it appeared the names of deceased people had appeared on polling precinct signature rolls, but found nothing nefarious.
She explained that of the initial batch of six names of allegedly dead voters on the DMV’s list, one had 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; and 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 agency went on to investigate more than 200 other names on the dead voter list and found zero cases of illegal activity.
But the fever wouldn’t break.
Eventually, the attorney general’s office announced that the State Law Enforcement Division would handle the rest of the names on the list. “No one in this state should issue any kind of clean bill of health in this matter until the professionals at SLED have finished with their work,” said an attorney general’s office spokesman at the time.
Well, SLED has completed its work – and found nothing nefarious.
State Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire says there was a time when the agency would get daily calls from members of the public who believed people in this state were casting fraudulent ballots in the name of dead people.
“It hurt the public confidence in South Carolina elections,” he says. He's glad SLED's report confirmed what the elections agency always believed: there was no fraud, merely clerical errors and genuine mistakes.
Bamberg County Democratic Rep. Bakari Sellers lashed out at the Republican officials who last year riled the public with the specter of dead voters haunting the ballot box. He said he hoped they were held accountable for compromising the public trust and integrity in the state's election process.
"They lied to our entire state and then they lied to our entire nation," Sellers said.