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In South Carolina, New Report Finds No Evidence Of 'Dead' Voters

The South Carolina State Election Commission has just released its initial review of allegations from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles that more than 950 deceased voters appeared to have ballots cast in their names after they died. The commission found that of the 207 cases reviewed, there was no evidence in 197 of them that fraudulent votes had been cast. The commission said that records in the other 10 cases were "insufficient to make a determination."

The findings are not a big surprise because what often appears to be "dead" people voting usually involves something else — such as clerical errors — once officials investigate.

But in South Carolina, the issue is highly charged because the state is currently battling the Justice Department's decision to block implementation of its new voter ID law. The allegations of "dead" people voting have fueled arguments that photo ID is needed to stop fraud at the polls. The Justice Department argues that the law is unnecessary and would discriminate against African-American voters who are less likely to have the required photo ID.

In its review, the election commission found 106 cases of clerical errors by poll managers — such as marking that John Doe Sr. had voted when it was really John Doe Jr. There were another 56 cases of what the commission called "bad data matching." It said that the DMV used only a voter's Social Security number to match their names against death files, and that produced incorrect matches. The commission says there's no evidence that the voters are in fact dead.

The commission has turned its findings over to the state attorney general's office, which has been investigating the allegations of fraud.

Updated 3:00 p.m.

You can read the commission's complete report here.

Updated 4:20 p.m.

The state attorney general's office in South Carolina said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the question of "dead" voters is still being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division and that no "final answer to this problem" can be determined until that investigation is concluded.

"To give this state's election process the clean bill of health we would like, we can't simply rely on the review of some 200 of 950 records ... that is unsatisfactory," the statement said.

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Pam Fessler
Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.