Taking a break from defending his state’s restrictive voter ID law in court, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke at a Heritage Foundation panel on Thursday regarding the dire need to prevent the threat of voter fraud. To illustrate, he offered a hypothetical in which a man votes under a stolen identity…by using a fraudulent voter ID card:
WILSON: The ability for someone to come in and, through fraud, dilute the voting pool is very present. I want to be able to give our government the ability to combat that, to give them the tools. It is very difficult to prove a negative. If Alan Wilson goes in and uses a fraudulent voter ID card under the name of John Smith and I vote under John Smith’s name and then leave the polling place, you cannot go back in time and prove the negative. It is impossible. It is very difficult to catch somebody in the act. But I hear countless stories of people who witnessed that.
In Wilson’s imagined scenario, a voter uses a fake ID to cast an extra vote. But his own argument rests on the idea that the requirement to show ID at the polls is necessary to combat rampant voter fraud and identity theft. By this logic, voter ID laws would do nothing to prevent this threat.
In-person voter fraud like the type Wilson claims to prevent is extremely rare. It is so rare, in fact, that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. Even the Supreme Court could only identify one example of in-person voter fraud in the past 143 years in their 2009 decision upholding a voter ID law.
By contrast, a recent Brennan Center report found that nearly 500,000 voters — mostly low-income and minority individuals — in the ten states with voter ID laws stand to be disenfranchised.
Wilson has sued the Department of Justice for blocking South Carolina’s voter ID law, arguing, “The changes have neither the purpose nor will they have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority.”
According to the ACLU’s estimate, 180,000 voters will be affected by the South Carolina law, with minority voters hit hardest by the new requirements.
This isn’t the first time Wilson’s hypotheticals have fallen flat. After he claimed over 900 dead voters cast ballots in South Carolina, an investigation by the State Election Commission found no evidence to back him up. Wilson has continued to insist that the threat of dead voters is real, and repeated the statistic at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday.