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Votes From the Dead May Still Be Counted

Old 11-01-04, 04:36 PM
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Votes From the Dead May Still Be Counted

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp...ge/dead_voters

RALEIGH, N.C. - An untold number of ballots from people who have died since casting them will be counted this year because of the haphazard and cumbersome process of enforcing laws in many states to weed out these votes.


With millions of voters taking advantage of new, in-person early voting in at least 30 states this year, it's even more likely that such "ghost" votes will be counted because, in most cases, those ballots are impossible to retrieve. Besides, it could be days or weeks after the election before local officials get word someone has died.


Earlier this month, in what would be her last conscious act, 90-year-old Trixie Porter gripped a pen in her weak, trembling hand, checked the candidates of her choice and scrawled a squiggled signature on her absentee ballot.


Within an hour, the petite woman who had been suffering from heart problems lay back in her hospital bed, closed her eyes and never woke up. Her ballot arrived at her local elections board two days later, Oct. 5 the day she died.


"We commented that day that it probably won't count," said daughter Cheryl McConnell. "But she went to her grave not knowing any different. It counted with her."


The thousands of lawyers from both parties who will be descending on battleground states Tuesday looking for reasons to pick up a few votes could find the phenomenon of dead voters more than just an Election Day curiosity.


In Florida alone, more than 1.8 million people, many of them elderly and sick retirees, have cast absentee ballots or voted early in person in the past two weeks.


How many of those voters won't be alive on Election Day? Considering that an average of 455 voting-age people die in Florida every day, and that the 2000 presidential election was decided by a mere 537 votes, dead votes that slip through the cracks could become a meaningful bloc.


"There are lots of examples of elections being decided by one vote or 300 votes," said Tim Storey, a senior fellow with National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. "It's the classic policymaking dilemma when you're trying to embark on new methods like early voting."


The problem has arisen as an unintended consequence of laws meant to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election debacle. Unlike traditional mail-in absentee ballots that are stored in labeled envelopes and can be pulled if someone dies, most of the new "in-person" early voting is being done on machines with no paper ballot to tell how those people voted.


So if a person in Florida casts an early ballot, then is run over by a truck right outside the polling place, there's no way to rescind the vote. But the vote of a Florida soldier who mails an absentee ballot from Iraq (news - web sites), then is killed in action, won't or shouldn't be counted.


"You've got potentially two people with exactly the same situation being treated differently under the law," said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron in Ohio. "And on the face of it, that's unfair."


Some elections officials go to great lengths to purge voter rolls of dead people. In Flagler County, Fla., elections supervisor Peggy Rae Border has staff members scan the obituaries regularly.


"Here we check our newspapers every single day," she said. "We're still a fairly small county, so we're able to do that on a regular basis."


In Florida and other states, the vital statistics agency sends local elections officials monthly computer lists of people who have passed away to be checked against the voter rolls.


But if that data dump occurs at the beginning of the month, as in North Carolina, the death of a voter may not be caught until after the election, when it's too late to take it back.


In Missouri, absentee voting began Sept. 21, but the latest state-provided list of dead people was only current through Oct. 15 and only went out late this past week.


"I personally know at least two absentee voters who are in hospice care and their minds are clear and they know what they want when they vote," said Christian County Clerk Kay Brown. "But who knows if they will be alive Election Day?"

Pennsylvania Secretary of State's spokesman Brian McDonald said enforcing that state's disqualification of dead voters is just impractical on the eve of a big election. "How the heck is the county supposed to know if an absentee voter has died?"

Several states including California, Texas, Tennessee and the presidential battlegrounds of Ohio and West Virginia specifically allow absentee votes from those who die before the election. This patchwork of state laws also means two identical sets of circumstances can lead to very different results.

Take the hypothetical of two Fort Campbell soldiers who cast absentee ballots and were killed in the same incident overseas. The vote of the soldier who lived on the Tennessee side of the base would be counted. The vote from the soldier who lived on the Kentucky side should be pulled because an attorney general's opinion in that state says those ballots should be tossed.

But such opinions are not legally binding allowing the Christian County, Ky., clerk to count them with impunity.

"As far as I'm concerned, Christian County will count their vote," says Clerk Mike Kem, who is also chairman of that Kentucky county's election board. "I think if somebody votes, their vote ought to count."

North Carolina structured its early voting process specifically to address this situation, with a retrievable ballot that is not counted until Election Day. So if election officials are notified that an early voter has died, that ballot can be removed.

The only two ways those ballots can be removed is if the computer crosscheck catches it, or the family submits written proof to election officials that the voter has died.

"We don't check the hospitals on the day before the election," said Don Wright, general counsel for North Carolina's Board of Elections. "We're not at the morgue."

Cheryl McConnell won't say how her mother voted before she died, but she made a copy of the ballot to keep.

As for the real absentee ballot, election officials hadn't pulled it because the family had yet to notify them of her death. McConnell says she's in no hurry.
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Old 11-01-04, 04:40 PM
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That seems pretty silly. Whether soldier or civillian, if you're alive at the time you cast your absentee ballot, it should be counted.
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Old 11-01-04, 04:42 PM
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Seems like it would be hard to keep track of this, and it's just easier to let the votes through for civilians. But it should be the same rules for soldiers as well.
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Old 11-01-04, 04:45 PM
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If Missouri can elect a dead person Senator, I don't see why a ballot already cast by a now-dead person should not be counted.
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Old 11-01-04, 05:04 PM
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<i>Mod edit: Is this kind of trolling post really necessary

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</i>

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Old 11-01-04, 06:28 PM
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I cant see how the soldiers vote wont be counted? Seems like spin. The same problem exsist for his vote - how would they know he died?

I really dont have a big problem to this. If they were alive to send in the ballot I am fine with it counting (as long as it is the same for everyone)
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Old 11-01-04, 06:31 PM
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http://news.tbo.com/news/MGB3V08301E.html

yeap it looks like the soldier stuff is rhetoric
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Old 11-01-04, 06:36 PM
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Originally posted by bfrank
I cant see how the soldiers vote wont be counted? Seems like spin. The same problem exsist for his vote - how would they know he died?
the problem isn't if they know they are dead or not...assuming the state knows, there is no way to go find an "electronic ballot" and remove it. but they can with an absentee....from your story:

An absentee ballot can be disqualified if the state learns of the voter's death before opening the ballot.
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Old 11-01-04, 06:40 PM
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The only time I would say that this is a problem is if the person isn't of a mental capacity to vote. (please resist the dumb people jokes) ie. their family sends their ballot in while they are in a coma or something and they die. I don't know how it works for people alive and in comas though either. If someone has power of attorney for you can they cast your vote?

If you are able to vote and you die after that vote is cast, I see no problem with it being counted as long as it was submitted legitimately.
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Old 11-01-04, 07:07 PM
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Originally posted by Thor Simpson
The only time I would say that this is a problem is if the person isn't of a mental capacity to vote. (please resist the dumb people jokes) ie. their family sends their ballot in while they are in a coma or something and they die. I don't know how it works for people alive and in comas though either. If someone has power of attorney for you can they cast your vote?

If you are able to vote and you die after that vote is cast, I see no problem with it being counted as long as it was submitted legitimately.

There is nothing you can do about that. Anyone who gets an absentee ballot could give their vote to someone else without anyone knowing.
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Old 11-01-04, 07:14 PM
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Originally posted by Thor Simpson
If you are able to vote and you die after that vote is cast, I see no problem with it being counted as long as it was submitted legitimately.
I agree completely.
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Old 11-01-04, 07:18 PM
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And as long as it is applied equally.
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Old 11-01-04, 10:23 PM
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I'm sure he'll be happy to know this!
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Old 11-01-04, 10:25 PM
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Originally posted by Red Dog
If Missouri can elect a dead person Senator, I don't see why a ballot already cast by a now-dead person should not be counted.
Wait a minute, Missouri actually did that?
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Old 11-01-04, 10:26 PM
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Wait a minute, Missouri actually did that?
How do you think Ashcroft was free to be the AG, although it was pretty much accepted that if the dead senator was elected his wife would serve in his place.
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Old 11-01-04, 10:34 PM
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Originally posted by Ranger
Wait a minute, Missouri actually did that?

Yes, but then I'll be deep in the cold cold ground before I recognize Missourah.
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Old 11-01-04, 10:45 PM
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(checks Google)

Well, how about that?

Ashcroft lost to a dead guy. How sad is that?
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Old 11-01-04, 10:55 PM
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Originally posted by Ranger
(checks Google)

Well, how about that?

Ashcroft lost to a dead guy. How sad is that?

Google. Please. Like my word can be doubted.

I bet that is one election where the majority of voters would like to have their vote back.
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Old 11-01-04, 11:41 PM
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I bet that is one election where the majority of voters would like to have their vote back.
True if Ashcroft had been employed, esp as Rep in a closely divided senate, there's no telling who would have been tapped for AG. Of course it could have been somebody worse, but according to some that would be difficult to do.

BTW what has happened to all the anti-Ashcroft rhetoric... I'm not hearing it as much as I used to. He's been pretty successful at staying out of the press recently it seems.

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Old 11-01-04, 11:58 PM
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Originally posted by Red Dog
Google. Please. Like my word can be doubted.
Trust, but verify. - Ronald Reagan
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