Every election we hear from some Republican politician — always a Republican — that there was rampant voter fraud. They will often point to some numerical discrepancy that sounds compelling but they always fall apart on examination. The latest example is from South Carolina:
South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name, according to the Columbia Free Times.
The report found that whatever issues existed were usually due to human error, like a clerical mistake or scanning problem, and not because anyone intentionally impersonated a deceased person. For example, hundreds of errors were due to mistakes like confusing a father and son who share the same name.
When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” The initial report surveyed 200 “suspicious” names and found nothing, but Wilson insisted “no one in this state should issue any kind of clean bill of health in this matter” until officials “finished with their work.”
We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself all over the country, year after year. Republicans come up with a list of voters with “discrepancies,” often by comparing the voter rolls to some other list. That’s what happened here. Wilson and the states DMV director, Kevin Shwedo, had a list of names of people who were deceased but had voted during the last election. Shwedo declared, “Well over 900 individuals appear to have voted after they died.” Did they? Or in a state with millions of voters, are there just a few hundred people who share the same name?
Wilson went even further, saying, “We know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.” Really? You know that for a fact? No, you don’t. You’re making that claim without actual evidence and the official investigation found that not one single case of the 900 you claimed was an actual case of voter fraud.
This has happened all over the country. In Maine, the chairman of the state Republican party claimed that there were thousands of college students committing voter fraud, presumably by voting at home and at college. The secretary of state investigated and concluded that there was not a single case of that happening.
In Colorado, the Republican secretary of state claimed that there were almost 12,000 non-citizens on the voter rolls. An initial investigation shrunk that number to 141, of which 35 had voted — and at least some of them had become citizens before voting.
In Wisconsin, Republican officials in 2004 produced a list of 37,000 “discrepancies” between voter registration lists and other government databases. When they were actually looked at, it turns out there were a total of 68 genuine discrepancies (which doesn’t mean anyone voted illegally, of course). All the rest turned out to be mundane things like a missing apartment number, a mis-typed name or address, a missing “jr” or “sr” in one of the databases being compared, people having moved and the database not updated, and so forth.
In Ohio that same year, Republican leaders gave scary speeches about how people were registering to vote with names like Mary Poppins and Dick Tracy — neither of which showed up to vote, of course. But there was a study of the 2002 and 2004 elections in that state that found that out of 9 million votes cast, there were 4 attempts to vote illegally.
We’ve seen the same thing in Michigan, Florida, Texas and North Carolina. It’s time to stop listening to the Republican who cried voter fraud.