Charge of 'dead voters' in S.C. elections is disputed

The State (Columbia, S.C.)January 26, 2012 

"Zombies" are not voting in South Carolina, the state's top election official said Wednesday, disputing claims by another state official that more than 950 dead voters have cast ballots in S.C. elections.

Marci Andino, director of the S.C. State Election Commission, testified before a House panel that some of the voters the Department of Motor Vehicles claims are dead actually are alive.

“In many cases, these are people that our (county election officials) know, and these people are very much alive,” Andino said.

Andino’s comments come two weeks after state Motor Vehicles director Kevin Shwedo told the same House panel that he had cross-checked state Election Commission records and death records for a small sample of the state’s electorate. He said he had found more than 37,000 names on the voter list that appeared to be those of dead South Carolinians and more than 950 of those had cast ballots after their date of death.

The dispute comes against the larger backdrop of battle over a new state voter ID law. The state is working to clear federal hurdles so it can enact a new voter ID law that will require voters to present a valid S.C. driver’s license or another approved ID to cast a ballot.

Shwedo’s boss, Gov. Nikki Haley, and many of her fellow Republicans favor the new law. Democrats oppose it, fearing it will suppress voter turnout, particularly among the poor and minorities.

The Election Commission has said almost 240,000 S.C. voters lack drivers’ licenses or other state-approved ID cards and could become ineligible to vote under the new law.

Two weeks ago, Shwedo charged Andino’s office knew it was using inaccurate data when it came up with the 240,000 number. He also said almost 1,000 deceased South Carolinians recently had cast ballots.

Andino said Wednesday that Shwedo is wrong.

She said her office was able to obtain the names of six Abbeville County voters, thought to be dead by the Motor Vehicles, and found:

• One was an absentee ballot cast by a voter who died before election day.

• One was the result of an error by a poll worker who mistakenly marked the voter as “John Doe III” when he was really “Joe Doe Jr.”

• Two were the result of clerical errors — stray marks on the voter registration list detected by the scanner that counts votes.

• Two were the result of poll managers incorrectly marking the name of a deceased voter instead of the actual voter who was listed either above or below the deceased voter on the list.

Andino said she only was able to obtain those six names, adding she has requested the full list of supposedly dead voters for further investigation. The state Attorney General’s office and the State Law Enforcement Division also are investigating the matter.

Andino said it is not unusual to find a certain number of dead people and clerical errors on the voting list. She testified that her office is not able to take anyone off the voter list without verification that a voter has died, moved out of state, or become mentally incapacitated or incarcerated.

House members at Wednesday’s meeting said Andino and Shwedo must get together to resolve the discrepancies in their lists and work together to ensure the state’s voter list is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

“You guys have got to fix whatever is going on, communication-wise,” said state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington. “Otherwise, I’m going to start assigning blame. It’s very troubling. We have to have belief in the process. If not, it’s going to hurt voter confidence.”

Late Thursday, Shwedo said he and Andino had been in communication and plan to get together soon to compare lists.

“I can’t make conclusions about the 957 (supposedly dead voters.) Not my job. Not going to do it. I’m not a trained investigator,” Shwedo said. “But I am willing to meet with her and share how we came up with the numbers.”

State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, who headed the House panel, said it’s best for all voters if the discrepancies are cleared up quickly.

“The bottom line is we must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting,” Clemmons said. “We must have certainty in South Carolina that our voting list is an accurate list. We must have certainty in South Carolina that we can put total faith and confidence in our election process so that every vote counts.”

To read more, visit www.thestate.com.

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