Earlier this month, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) set off alarms by claiming there was evidence that over 900 dead people had voted in his state’s recent elections. The charge has since been echoed in a wide array of media outlets, nowhere more prominently than Fox News.
Although the state has not disclosed the names of the 900 zombies who allegedly showed up at the polls, Wilson did provide six names which he claims are on the list. Yet a preliminary review of these six by the South Carolina State Election Commission reveals six far more innocent explanations (bolds are ours):
- One was an absentee ballot cast by a voter who then died before election day;
- Another was the result of an error by a poll worker who mistakenly marked the voter as Samuel Ferguson, Jr. when the voter was in fact Samuel Ferguson, III;
- Two were the result of stray marks on the voter registration list detected by the scanner – again, a clerical error;
- The final two were the result of poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter listed either above or below on the list.
When ThinkProgress wrote about Wilson’s charge two and a half weeks ago, we noted that nearly every time someone makes dead voter allegations, the culprit ends up being “a spelling error, a check-in error, or simply a death shortly after Election Day.” Indeed, clerical errors and a death close to Election Day is precisely what happened in Abbeville County, not voting from the grave.
Though Fox News ran multiple segments hyping the allegations that dead people had tainted South Carolina’s elections, a preliminary review shows that the cable station has yet to report on the State Election Commission’s review debunking Wilson’s charge.
In many ways, this is the major problem: “dead voter” claims are sexy, getting reported far and wide nearly every election. Yet when the allegations are inevitably shown to be false, far fewer news outlets follow up. As a result, many people never learn that dead voters didn’t taint South Carolina’s recent elections.
Every few years, officials undertake the same Scooby Doo-routine, claiming to have uncovered damning evidence of dead voters, only to ultimately conclude that simpler explanations account for the inconsistencies. Just like Maryland and California in 1994, Georgia in 1998, or New Hampshire in 2004, South Carolina is the latest state to put on the “dead voter” Kabuki performance.