The Republican attorney general was participating in a panel convened at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC to discuss the need to “ensure election integrity.” Wilson accused voter ID opponents of “twisting the facts and manipulate the data” about how the law would disenfranchise poor and elderly voters who may not have a photo ID:
In our state, we came to the understanding that there are 239,000 South Carolinians who had a voter registration card but no photo ID. Well, the Justice Department made a determination that 10% of that number were non-white and 8.4% of that number were white — a 1.6% disparity of how people could be negatively or adversely affected. The thing is, they said in their refusal to pre-clear South Carolina’s voter ID law that minorities were 20% more likely to be disenfranchised or have their vote suppressed. Not that there’s a 1.6% disparity — they came up with that 20% number because the number 10 is 20% higher than 8.4. There was a twisting of facts.
Either Wilson is doing some fact-twisting of his own, or he just doesn’t understand how percentages work. The Justice Department said 10 percent of South Carolina’s registered non-white voters lack IDs, and 8.4 percent of the registered white voters lack IDs. But because South Carolina has many more white voters than non-white voters, it’s that disparity that means a much higher proportion of non-white voters are disenfranchised.
Wilson went on to claim that further review by the Department of Motor Vehicles showed that many of those 239,000 supposedly-disenfranchised voters had simply moved out of the state without canceling their voter registration, so the numbers used by the Justice Department were inflated. However, he left out a very important detail — the DMV’s review showed that South Carolina’s voter ID law is even more discriminatory than had Wilson simply used the original numbers, as DMV Director Kevin Shwedo told lawmakers back in January:
Of the 27,000 remaining South Carolinians who legitimately lack IDs, according to Shwedo, about 50 percent are African-American and 45 percent are caucasian. But because South Carolina’s population includes over twice as many whites as blacks, the normalized numbers show that African-Americans are still much more likely to be affected by the law — which is exactly the Justice Department’s point.
Keep in mind, this admission was made by the guy who first made the “zombie voters” claim which soon turned out to be bogus. Though Shwedo quickly walked back his claim about the 953 supposedly-dead people who did not actually vote in South Carolina’s elections, Wilson has continues to make the fact-free claim — telling a national Fox News audience that “we know for a fact” dead people were voting.
Wilson also defended against criticism that voter ID is “a solution in search of a problem” by offering up a convoluted metaphor to explain why the Palmetto State should pass such an expensive and controversial law without any proof that it’s needed:
When you talk about having a solution in search of a problem, I thought about that comment this morning as I sat on the plane. As I boarded the plane, I bumped into the pilot and said hello to him. I started thinking, imagine if that pilot had said to me as I boarded the plane, ‘Based on my observations, I have a suspicious belief that this plane might crash based on the instrument panel readings.’ I can tell you right now I would want that pilot to have every tool and take as much time as he needed to prevent — to preemptively prevent — this plane from crashing and having any problems.
To date, South Carolina officials still have not produced evidence of even one case of voter fraud at the polls. To keep Wilson’s lighter-than-air metaphor going, if a pilot started warning about potential crashes based on nothing but the ravings of some airline version of Glenn Beck pseudoscience, that’s not a flight we want to be on either way — regardless of any potential mechanical trouble.
For another thing, we hope Wilson’s fictitious pilot would leave the tinkering up to the mechanics instead of messing with his plane engine himself. After all, this is real life — not the fantasy world of Lost.