Votes from the dead may still be counted

Votes from the dead may still be counted

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, October 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 descended on battleground states yesterday 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.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.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 labelled 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, 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.”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.- Nampa-APBesides, 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, October 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 descended on battleground states yesterday 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.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.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 labelled 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, 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.”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.- Nampa-AP

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