No dead voted in S.C.
Last year, as the state Legislature sought to enact a law requiring residents to produce a photo ID before they could vote, supporters pointed to a report of widespread voter fraud to justify the law. The Department of Motor Vehicles determined early in the year that more than 900 people listed as deceased also had voted in recent years.
The report created an immediate hubbub, with headlines declaring that dead people were voting in South Carolina. S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson referred the report to state police, saying that the number of people cited as voting while deceased “is an alarming number and clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.”
DMV Director Kevin Shwedo testified about the findings in a hearing before state lawmakers. Republican lawmakers and other elected officials jumped on the report as evidence that a voter ID law was sorely needed to guard against fraud at the ballot box.
A law was passed, but it was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department on the grounds that it discriminated against minorities, seniors and young voters. Subsequently, however, the ruling was overturned by a three-judge federal appeals panel.
But in doing so, the panel warned the state that the law must be implemented leniently to allow voters without required photo IDs to cast ballots. All voters had to do to cast a ballot was to declare that they had no photo ID, in which case a voter registration card would suffice for identification as it has in the past.
In other words, the law has no teeth. And that was enough to satisfy the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters and other key groups that had opposed the voter ID law, all of whom declined to appeal the panel’s ruling to the Supreme Court.
Now, nearly 10 months after that ruling, the SLED report on voter fraud has been issued. Its conclusion?
The number of dead people voting in South Carolina elections was exactly zero.
In most cases, the questionable votes were the result of clerical errors. Several dozen others resulted from DMV officials running Social Security numbers of voters against dead people but not seeing if the names matched. Several other cases arose from ballots cast by men with the same names as their deceased fathers.
This report remains relevant. With last month’s decision by the Supreme Court to end pre-clearance requirements in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, several states are poised to enact tough voter ID laws.
Some South Carolina lawmakers are certain to propose going back and toughening the requirements for this state’s voter ID law. But that would be hard to justify in light of the fact that the SLED study could find not one iota of evidence of voter fraud in state elections.
As we have often stated, voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. The state needs to find ways to increase voter turnout, not impede people from voting.
The SLED report proves that voter ID laws are unnecessary in South Carolina. The Supreme Court ruling should not serve as a pretext to enact a law that is likely to suppress the vote of blacks, seniors and young voters.