Folks were more than a little surprised when they looked up the street at the Folly Beach Christmas Parade on Dec. 13 and saw Wallace Scarborough in an open convertible, waving to the crowd. Placards on the car announced him as the House District 115 representative.
The problem was that Scarborough had lost the Nov. 4 election to Democrat Anne Peterson Hutto by 211 votes. The county Board of Elections certified the results. Scarborough appealed to the S.C. Election Commission, claiming massive vote fraud. The Election Commission rejected his appeal unanimously.
People might have been even more surprised to know the twisted logic and tortured evidence Scarborough used in his protest before the Election Commission.
Before the Dec. 3 hearing, Scarborough's attorney gave to the commission — and to Peterson Hutto's attorney — two electronic spreadsheets which reportedly contained evidence of vote fraud. Both lists were generated by the National Change of Address listing of the U.S. Postal Service. One list contained 115 names and addresses of residents who apparently had moved within the district and voted fraudulently. The second list contained over 450 names and addresses of residents who appeared to have moved out of the district and voted fraudulently in the district.
With so many votes in question, Scarborough was asking the Election Commission to throw out the Nov. 4 results and order a new election.
In the days before the hearing, Democratic volunteers spent the Thanksgiving holidays tracking down the people named on the two spreadsheets. It was an arduous task, with volunteers knocking on as many doors and calling as many phone numbers as possible before the hearing. As they contacted residents, a pattern emerged. The change-of-address lists were not evidence of massive vote fraud, as Scarborough claimed. They were simply a reflection of modern American life.
Many of the people on Scarborough's lists were professionals and business people who received their mail at their offices, according to Susan Breslin, an organizer of the canvassers. Others were students, who lived outside District 115, but still claimed it as their home and had their mail forwarded to their parents' addresses there. Still others were Americans living abroad and voting absentee. They claimed District 115 as their home, as the law required, because it was their last stateside residence. In another case, Breslin says, Scarborough accused four elderly residents of Bishop Gadsden, a James Island retirement home, of vote fraud because they had their mail forwarded to family members.
Many were shocked to learn that they were being accused of vote fraud, Breslin said. One angry resident, an 81-year-old James Island man, said he had his mail forwarded to his daughter's home in Boone, N.C., because he spends much of his time there.
In the hearing, it came out that Scarborough apparently had not contacted anyone on his lists in an effort to give them the opportunity to defend themselves.
"He tried to take the people's right to vote away by circumstantial evidence," says Lachlan McIntosh, a Democratic activist who worked with Hutto on this appeal. "I find this offensive. I've been doing this for 16 years, and I have never seen a candidate declare war on his constituents in an effort to hold onto power."
On the day of the hearing in Columbia, Scarborough's attorney Butch Bowers presented commission members and the Peterson Hutto legal team with a third list, this one in a four-inch thick, black-ring binder. It was a list of 365 District 115 residents and their driving violations. The violations dated back years and included such offenses as speeding, reckless driving, driving under suspension, and driving without insurance. The names and offenses were placed in the public record, and the drivers were accused of vote fraud because their drivers license addresses did not coincide with their home addresses. Depending on circumstances, this may or may not have been a violation of highway law, Breslin says, but it is not vote fraud.
One more thing the people of District 115 need to know: When S.C. Democratic Party workers analyzed the second electronic spreadsheet of people accused of vote fraud, they noticed that row 368 had been "folded" out of sight. A Democratic worker performed a simple function to open the hidden name and was surprised to find that it was none other than Wallace Scarborough! The former state representative had apparently made his own list of alleged frauds because he maintains a downtown post office box.
Scarborough is now appealing to the House of Representatives to have the election thrown out.
Scarborough's attorney could not be reached to comment on this story. Scarborough did not return phone messages.
To read more about Wallace Scarborough and the House 115 race, go to Will Moredock's blog at thegoodfight.ccpblogs.com.