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.
Schwedo called the Election Commission “either stupid or disingenuous” for submitting an unverified list of South Carolinians who lack IDs, but Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) later pointed out that voter ID supporters are doing the same thing by claiming voter fraud took place without an investigation. “They have a number that hasn’t been vetted either, so they’re doing exactly what they’re saying the Election Commission did,” said Sellers.
Even as Schwedo made his claim about voter fraud, however, he offered testimony that weakened the case for the voter ID law. Of the 27,000 remaining South Carolinians who legitimately lack IDs, according to Schwedo, about 50 percent are African-American and 45 percent are caucasian. But because South Carolina’s population has over twice as many whites as blacks, the normalized numbers show African-Americans are still much more likely to be affected by the law — which is exactly the Justice Department’s point.
Schwedo insisted his motives were apolitical, saying he’s merely interested in making sure everyone has an ID who needs one. “I don’t give a rat’s tail at the end of the day which way [voter ID] goes,” he said.
But Schwedo was appointed by one of the voter ID law’s biggest supporters, Gov. Nikki Haley, and maintains a close enough relationship with the Haleys that he talked before Wednesday’s meeting about watching the Clemson-Wofford game with the First Family in September. Given Schwedo’s close ties to Gov. Haley — not to mention the fact that he owes his job to her — it’s hard to imagine Schwedo would have no stake in the matter.
The question remains — why did the state wait until now to check these numbers instead of doing so while the voter ID bill was actually up for debate? “It’s rather astounding for us to be having this discussion at the 13th hour,” said Sellers, blaming the state’s failure to run those numbers until being asked by the Justice Department on poor leadership.
Regardless, taxpayers are now stuck with the bill to sort out their politically-driven legislation.