SC lawmakers review voter rolls, how deceased voters are removed

Speakers from the public had mixed views on voter roll action.
Speakers from the public had mixed views on voter roll action.
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 8:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Wednesday, state lawmakers dissected the voter roll process and how ineligible voters are removed.

Rep. Weston Newton, R-Beaufort, chaired the Ad Hoc Committee of the State Election Commission and asked leaders of both state agencies and members of the public to speak.

In a letter to fellow committee members, Newton explained why the committee was formed:

(1) sworn testimony received by the Committee on April 8, 2021, from a constituent and the State Election Commission’s Executive Director; (2) limited time afforded to the Committee during the April 8 meeting to seek answers to questions arising from the testimony received; and (3) the personal experience of our colleague, Representative Bill Hixon, that his mother remained on the state’s active voter registration list more than two years after her death. During this study, I am confident our bi-partisan legislative oversight process will maintain its focus on fact-finding and program improvement, which has been a cornerstone of the Committee’s work since its formation in 2014.

Speakers from the public had mixed views on voter roll action.

Beaufort County resident Laurie Zapp raised concerns about large numbers of dead voters on South Carolina’s voter rolls, and possible fraud associated with it.

“Potential problems with our voter registration logs has led me to have serious concerns about free, fair and transparent elections in South Carolina,” she said. “Does my vote matter?”

Lynn Teague, with the League of Women’s Voters South Carolina, argued action to remove names from the voter rolls could do more harm than good.

“South Carolina does not have a problem with dead people voting,” she said. “South Carolina has a problem with not enough people voting, and nothing should be done to amplify that very real problem.”

Leaders from State Election Commission (SEC), the DMV and DHEC all gave presentations and answered questions about their roles in removing the names of dead South Carolinians from the voter registry.

SEC Executive Director Marci Andino said the commission is responsible for removing roughly 41,000 names a year off the list because of deaths.

Commission Director of Public Information, Chris Whitmire, said the commission was aware of zero ballots cast by dead people in the 2020 election.

He also elaborated on how the commission reviewed roughly 600 names submitted by Zapp in September 2020 over concerns of fraud. The commission found zero fraud cases.

In 2012, the SEC published a report on 207 alleged cases of dead voters voting. Out of those 207 cases, 197 cases showed no signs of voter fraud. In the remaining 10, there were insufficient records.

Andino and the leaders of DHEC and DMV present said there is work to do on streamlining the process.

“List maintenance is challenging, and it requires that very important balance that we are removing people who are no longer eligible,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”

Committee report documents show Court Administration (reflecting general sessions, magistrates, and 30 percent of municipalities) found nine guilty verdicts for voting crimes from 2010 to 2021 in South Carolina.

When crimes for tampering with campaign signs are removed, that number drops to just five verdicts.

The committee took no action in the hearing.

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