Fox Promotes Dubious Claim That 900 Deceased People Voted In SC

Fox News has repeatedly promoted South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 state residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. But the official who first publicized that figure reportedly said that the discrepancy could be explained by voters casting absentee ballots before their deaths or by data errors.

Fox Suggests Hundreds Of Votes Were Fraudulently Cast In The Names Of Dead SC Residents ...

Fox Business' Dobbs: New Report “Shows That More Than 900 People -- Dead People -- Appeared To Have Voted In Recent Elections In South Carolina.” From the January 11 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: South Carolina tonight suing the Justice Department for blocking a state law that required voters of South Carolina to show identification. Attorney General Eric Holder trying to explain why such a law is so difficult for the Justice Department to accept.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL [video clip]: Speak out. Raise awareness about what's at stake. Call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hopes of attaining electoral success and instead encourage and work with the parties to achieve the success by appealing to more voters.

DOBBS: A little political by any definition. In addition to suing the Justice Department, our next guest is calling for an investigation after newly released evidence shows that more than 900 people -- dead people -- appeared to have voted in recent elections in South Carolina where they have passed that ID law. Joining us now is South Carolina's attorney general, Alan Wilson. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 1/11/12]

Fox News' Hemmer Helps SC Attorney General Use 900 Dead Voter Claim To Support SC's Voter ID Law. From the January 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

BILL HEMMER (co-host): There is a new law in that state that requires voters to show an ID when voting, a photo ID. Now the Justice Department is challenging state Republicans on that law, and this could be important here. Alan Wilson is the Attorney General. He is live down there in Columbia, South Carolina. Sir, good morning to you.

WILSON: Morning.

HEMMER: Why is this an issue in the first place?

WILSON: Well, first off, when the law was originally written it was written to protect citizens from fraudulent activity in the electoral process. It is important that the voters of our state have faith in the process by which we elect our leaders. So that was its original intent.

HEMMER: But is there evidence that 900 dead people have voted in South Carolina? Is that part of your case?

WILSON: That's right. When we were going through the process of getting this law precleared with the Department of Justice, we provided numbers that showed that this would have a minimal effect on minority voters, the elderly, and of course opponents of this bill said that this is trying, this is in search of a problem that doesn't exist. Well, subsequently, we found out that there were over 900 people who died and then subsequently voted. That number could be even higher than that, Bill. So this is just an example. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 1/12/12]

... But Election Official Who Introduced The Statistic Reportedly Said Absentee Ballots Or Data Errors Could Be The Cause

Palmetto Public Record: DMV Director Schwedo “Said Those 900 Voters Could Easily Have Voted Absentee Before Their Deaths.” From a January 12 Palmetto Public Record (SC) article:

Supporters of the new Voter ID law are alleging fraud at the polls after the Department of Motor Vehicles director told a House panel that over 900 deceased South Carolinians appear to have voted, but the circumstances surrounding that statistic suggest it's merely the latest in a slew of dubious claims trotted out in an effort to win support for the discriminatory law.

DMV Director Kevin Schwedo -- who was overheard calling the media's presence a “setup” before the hearing -- made his claim to the Judiciary subcommittee right as Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson released a perfectly-timed statement claiming the number is clear evidence of voter fraud in South Carolina. But Schwedo himself said those 900 voters could easily have voted absentee before their deaths, and admitted he has no way of knowing. [Palmetto Public Record, 1/12/12]

The State: Schwedo Said 900 Deceased Voter Figure Could Be Explained By “Data-Reporting Problems Or Other Errors.” From a January 12 article in The State (SC):

Analysts used records from the S.C. Election Commission, the S.C. Department of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Administration, Schwedo said. His office determined that about 957 people could have voted after they had died but said there could be data-reporting problems or other errors that would make the number lower.

Schwedo did not say when those questionable votes may have been cast -- whether over the past 20 years or two years. He said he examined the data because he wasn't satisfied with what was being presented by the S.C. State Election Commission. [The State, 1/12/12]

Deceased Voter Fraud Claims Are Often Revealed As Unfounded, Caused By Data Errors Or Absentee Voters Who Subsequently Died

Brennan Center: There Are Only A “Handful Of Known Cases” In Which Votes Were Cast In The Name Of Deceased Voters. From a 2007 report from the Brennan Center for Justice:

Allegations of “dead voters” are also popular, not least for the entertaining pop culture references to be found in the headlines: “Among Voters in New Jersey, G.O.P. Sees Dead People,” for example, or “Dead Man Voting.” After further investigation, however, these allegedly dead voters often turn up perfectly healthy.

There are a handful of known cases in which documentation shows that votes have been cast in the names of voters who have died before the vote was submitted.

It is far more common, however, to see unfounded allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave, with a chuckle and a reference to Gov. Earl Long's quip (“When I die -- if I die -- I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”) or Rep. Charlie Rangel's update (same idea, but takes place in Chicago). [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007]

Brennan Center: Allegations Of Fraud By Dead Voters Are Often Due To Flawed Matches Of Lists. From the 2007 report:

Here, too, flawed matches of lists from one place (death records) to another (voter rolls) are often responsible for misinformation. Sometimes the interpretation is flawed: two list entries under the same name indicate different individuals. Sometimes the lists themselves are flawed: as Hilde Stafford discovered in 2006, individuals who are in fact quite spry are occasionally listed as deceased on the Social Security Administration's master files. And sometimes, because of clerical error by election workers or voters or both, an individual is marked as voting when she did not in fact cast a ballot, or is marked as voting under the wrong person's name. For example, despite having died in 1997, Alan J. Mandel was alleged to have voted in 1998. On further investigation, Alan J. Mandell (two “l”s), who was very much alive and voting at the time, explained that local election workers simply checked the wrong name off of the list. Indeed, a 2007 investigation of about 100 “dead voters” in Missouri revealed that every single purported case was properly attributed either to a matching error, a problem in the underlying data, or a clerical error by elections officials or voters.


In Georgia in 2000, 5,412 votes were alleged to have been cast by deceased voters over the past 20 years. The allegations were premised on a flawed match of voter rolls to death lists. A follow-up report clarified that only one instance had been substantiated, and this single instance was later found to have been an error: the example above, in which Alan J. Mandel was confused with Alan J. Mandell. No other evidence of fraudulent votes was reported.


In New Jersey in 2004, 4,755 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot. The allegations were premised on a flawed match of voter rolls to death lists. No follow-up investigation publicly documented any substantiated cases of fraud of which we are aware, and there were no reports that any of these allegedly deceased voters voted in 2005.


In New York in 2002 and 2004, 2,600 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot, again based on a match of voter rolls to death lists. Journalists following up on seven cases found clerical errors and mistakes but no fraud, and no other evidence of fraud was reported. [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007, footnotes excised]

Brennan Center: In Other Cases, Investigations Found That “Dead Voters” Cast Absentee Ballots Before Their Deaths. From the 2007 report:

In other circumstances, the match is accurate but reveals nothing illegal about the vote: the voter has died, yes, but after casting her ballot. In Maryland in 1995, for example, an exhaustive investigation revealed that of 89 alleged deceased voters, none were actually dead at the time the ballot was cast. The federal agent in charge of the investigation said that the nearest they came was when they “found one person who had voted then died a week after the election.”


In Michigan in 2005, 132 votes were alleged to have been cast by deceased voters. The allegations were premised on a flawed match of voter rolls to death lists. A follow-up investigation by the Secretary of State revealed that these alleged dead voters were actually absentee ballots mailed to voters who died before Election Day; 97 of these ballots were never voted, and 27 were voted before the voter passed away. Even if the remaining eight cases all revealed substantiated fraud, that would amount to a rate of at most 0.0027%. [Brennan Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” 2007, footnotes excised]