Have you heard of the zombie epidemic spreading across the country? No, we don’t mean the rash of bath-salts-fueled cannibal attacks — we’re talking about reports of “dead people” allegedly voting in droves, threatening the very fabric of democracy as we know it!
Or at least, that’s what Republicans and the corporate front groups pushing voter suppression laws into statehouses across the country would have you believe. In reality, these “zombie voter” attacks are about as likely as getting attacked by an actual creature of the undead.
You’ll recall that when Department of Motor Vehicles chief Kevin Shwedo told lawmakers he found 900 supposedly dead voters who voted in recent elections, voter ID proponents like Rep. Alan Clemmons and Attorney General Alan Wilson immediately called the claim irrefutable proof that voter fraud is a problem in South Carolina.
Despite clear evidence that Shwedo’s “zombie voters” claim was mistaken, the Alans refused to back down from their misinformed claim. Clemmons soon introduced a bill forcing voter registration groups and get-out-the-vote drives to jump through hoops in order to operate, and pay serious fines if they submit incorrect information. Another Republican introduced a bill requiring proof of citizenship before being allowed to register to vote — despite the total lack of evidence that foreigners or non-citizens have ever fraudulently registered or cast a ballot in South Carolina.
Those bills died in the General Assembly before they could become law, but it looks like they’ve risen from the grave once again. Michigan Republicans passed identical bills last week after trumpeting a similar “dead voters” claim, which was later found to be just as bogus as South Carolina’s:
The Secretary of State’s Office, which supervises Michigan elections, said every example cited in a new report by Auditor General Thomas McTavish involved clerks accidentally crossing incorrect names off voter lists, and not one example was the result of someone voting using another person’s identity.
State Rep. Timothy Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe, minority vice chair of the same committee, said instances of voter fraud are so rare in Michigan that lawmakers’ efforts would be better expended on finding ways to encourage more people to vote, rather than introducing measures that might discourage legitimate voters.
The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which developed South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law, has been disbanded for months. But even as the Palmetto State wages a costly court battle against the Justice Department to defend its discriminatory law, other Republican front groups are taking up ALEC’s mantle by spreading similar voter suppression measures into other states.
In fact, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported this week that voter suppression measures like those in South Carolina and Michigan have been passed in 14 states — representing about 70 percent of the electoral votes needed to win a presidential election. In every one of those states, the measure was pushed by Republicans based on flimsy-at-best evidence. In every case, the voter suppression measures
But with less than 12 percent of South Carolina’s eligible voters turning for the recent primary elections, we tend to agree with Rep. Bledsoe that the state should be focused on encouraging more people to vote rather than disenfranchising legitimate voters.