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In South Carolina, Dead-Voter Fraud Doesn't Quite Live Up To Fears

South Carolina's suit against the Department of Justice over the state's new voter ID law comes amid a big to-do in the state over whether hundreds of "dead" voters cast ballots in past elections.

The issue has been used by ID supporters as evidence that voter fraud in the state is a serious problem. But it looks as though that's not going to turn out to be the case.

The State Election Commission is doing a name by name review, and a spokesman told NPR this week that, after looking through about a quarter of the names, they have yet to find any evidence that "something funny is going on." The results of this initial review — which involves the 2010 elections — are expected to be released later this week or next week.

The Election Commission's Executive Director Marci Andino gave a preview last month that what looked like widespread fraud, might turn out to be much more benign — as these cases often are.

She said that out of the first six names checked, five involved clerical or poll worker errors, such as someone marking the wrong voter's name in the poll book. The sixth case involved a man who had sent in an absentee ballot, and then died.

The alarms about possible voter fraud came from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, which was trying to determine how many registered voters didn't have photo ID. In the process, the DMV found what it said was evidence that some 37,000 deceased individuals were on the state's voter registration list, and that of those, some 953 had ballots casts in their names.

The head of the department, Kevin Schwedo, said that was "probable cause" to believe a crime had been committed. So he turned the information over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson, who alerted the Justice Department that it appeared that "over 900 persons who were deceased at the time of the elections" had voted.

Wilson also happens to be the state official suing Justice over the new voter ID law. The suit says ID is needed to enhance "public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process in South Carolina."

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