COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Officials from two state agencies have yet to determine why their records show nearly 1,000 South Carolinians appear to have cast ballots last year after they died.
It's not an unheard of phenomenon in the world of politics. But in South Carolina, even the suggestion that people registered votes after their deaths has fed into the statewide and national controversy over voter ID bills.
When South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Director Kevin Shwedo told a legislative hearing earlier this month his agency's review of voting and death records turned up more than 950 names of people who seemed to have voted after they died, Shwedo turned that information over to SLED.
"I think the biggest mistake people will make right now is to try to draw conclusions until the investigation is complete," said Shwedo. "Which is why exactly all I did was identify that there was the possibility of fraud which is you know, probable cause and the second I hit probable cause I put it in the hands of investigators."
State Election Commission officials were justifiably concerned but complained that they didn't have access to all of the voter information, especially that list of supposedly dead voters.
Thursday Shwedo met with Commission Director Marci Andino after sending the dead voter list to her agency. She and Shwedo promised to work together to figure out how those votes were cast and whether any of them were the result of fraud.
"The answer is out there," said Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire. "We have the voter registration list and the poll list in every election conducted in South Carolina so it's a matter of going back, looking at what the poll manager marked on the registration list, looking at the poll list, looking for that voter's signature, if it matches their original voter registration application."
Lexington Representative Rick Quinn is among those who say fraud is a real possibility.
"Some of the issues may be the lack of a real secure structure in terms of keeping records. But I've personally seen issues where political operatives of both parties have tried to register people to vote and vote in a way that most people would find troublesome."
The Election Commission has already checked out a half dozen cases involving so-called dead voters. All but one were the result of human error. That other vote was cast absentee by a man who then died.