Seventeen months after Fox News became briefly fixated on Republican claims that hundreds of dead voters had cast ballots in South Carolina, those allegations have been completely debunked by an investigation by law enforcement that found no evidence of voter fraud.
The South Carolina "dead voter" claim sprang from testimony from Kevin Schwedo, the director of the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, who said on January 11, 2012, that more than 950 residents were recorded as having cast a vote after their reported death date. Schwedo made clear that this could have been the result of data errors or voters dying after casting an absentee ballot, but the state's Republicans, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson, seized on the report as evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Wilson took his campaign to Fox News, where he received a platform for softball interviews from several anchors. The network used the "dead voter" story to promote South Carolina's voter ID law, which had been blocked by the Justice Department.
Again, these claims were always dubious - deceased voter fraud claims are often revealed as unfounded, the result of data errors or other explanations.
Indeed, on July 3 the public release of an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) provided the answer we anticipated: No voter fraud was found, no charges filed. As of noon E.T. on July 8, Fox had not reported on those findings.
According to the report, released due to a public records search by the Columbia Free Times' Corey Hutchins, SLED reviewed the findings of the State Election Commission, which had looked into the 207 votes that had been called into question that occurred during the 2010 general election. Nearly half were the result of "name recognition errors," where, for instance, when a father who was deceased but whose name still appeared on the list would be marked as having voted when his son of the same name had actually cast the ballot. The balance was due to other types of clerical errors and individuals casting absentee ballots before their deaths.
In other words, the results of the investigation were exactly what someone versed in the issue would have anticipated, and in fact what local officials postulated at the time. But Fox News, driven by ideology, tried to turn it into a voter fraud issue.
Hutchins explained the result of this effort by the GOP and right-wing media -- which he labeled the state's biggest waste of public funds for 2012-- was that the investigation "hammer[ed] away at the time and resources of the understaffed and underfunded State Election Commission -- even when that agency has repeatedly said there are no documented cases of someone impersonating another at the polls in the Palmetto State."
One would expect a network as obsessed with state spending as Fox to have something to say about that sort of waste. But so far they've been silent.