SC Election Director on Dead Voters: Not So Fast


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Today’s Election Data Dispatch from Pew examines the recent statement by South Carolina state election director Marci Andino about allegations of “deceased voters” possibly casting ballots in the Palmetto State.

Andino’s remarks came in testimony before the House Election Laws Subcommittee, and focused on a sample of six voters (out of more than 900 on the overall list) provided to her office by the Attorney General’s office.

Using those six names, the state election office was able to determine the following (from Andino’s statement):

  • +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.

In short, only one of the six voters examined is actually dead – and that voter was a valid voter when his or her ballot was cast.

These findings suggest that voter data can be very messy given the intensely human nature of voting and the increasing role of technology in the process.

Nevertheless, while the analysis is not conclusive as to the validity of all of the votes cast by purportedly dead voters, it certainly suggests that the number of fraudulent votes cast in the name of the departed is somewhere south of the full list of 900.

In the aftermath of Andino’s testimony, two major issues remain:

  1. Whether the State Election Commission will get access to the full list of names being investigated by the Attorney General and the State Law Enforcement Commission; and
  2. What impact the emerging uncertainty about the data will have on South Carolina’s continued efforts – including a lawsuit – to overcome the U.S. Justice Department’s objection to its new photo voter ID law.

In short, the data has already begun to speak in South Carolina; what remains is to discover if it will be allowed to finish – and if so if anyone will be listening.

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