STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Some states allow ballots if voters die before Election Day

Questions over whether ballots will count if someone votes early but dies before Election Day are especially pressing this year, amid a coronavirus outbreak that has been especially perilous for older Americans.

Posted: Oct 19, 2020 10:58 AM

ATLANTA (AP) — At 90 years old and living through a global pandemic, Hannah Carson knows time may be short. She wasted no time returning her absentee ballot for this year’s election.

As soon as it arrived at her senior living community, she filled it out and sent it back to her local election office in Charlotte, North Carolina. If something were to happen and she doesn’t make it to Election Day, Carson said she hopes her ballot will remain valid.

“I should think I should count, given all the years I have been here,” she said.

In North Carolina, a ballot cast by someone who subsequently dies can be set aside if a challenge is filed before Election Day with the county board of elections.

Questions over whether ballots will count if someone votes early but dies before Election Day are especially pressing this year, amid a coronavirus outbreak that has been especially perilous for older Americans. People 85 years and older represent nearly one in three deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. As an election looms, the odds against older people who contract the virus are on the minds of the elderly and their family members.

Seventeen states prohibit counting ballots cast by someone who subsequently dies before the election, but 10 states specifically allow it. The law is silent in the rest of the country, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Even though a law might require such ballots to be rejected, it’s likely that some could still count depending on when the person dies and when election officials find out about the death.

“The law may say that the ballot of a person who dies in that situation can’t be counted, but it is a hard law to follow,” said Wendy Underhill, head of elections for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

When someone dies close to an election, it takes time for death records to be updated, and there is a narrow window between when a ballot is cast and counted. Colorado in 2016 had between 15 and 20 instances of voters who cast a ballot by mail and then died before Election Day. All were counted.

In Michigan’s primary earlier this year, 864 ballots were rejected because the voters died before the election even though they were alive when they filled them out.

The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a story about the dead voters in Michigan that was later debunked for misrepresenting the issue. With President Trump making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, the question of whether ballots will count if early voters die soon after could be a source of further conspiracies.

Studies have shown that voter fraud is exceptionally rare. There are numerous safeguards built into the system to ensure that only voters eligible to vote can do so and that they cast only one ballot. Election officials say that when fraud does happen, people are caught and prosecuted.

“There have been umpteen examples of some group claiming a whole bunch of people casting ballots after they died,” said Justin Levitt, an election law expert who has studied voter fraud in depth. “These things don’t pan out.”

In most cases, claims of dead voters are based on poor information or a faulty analysis that fails to account for the many people who share the same name and birthdate, Levitt said.

In an exceptionally small number of cases, there is fraud. Levitt said this typically involves someone wanting to honor the wishes of a loved one who recently died and either knowingly or not commits a crime by filling out that ballot.

An election judge from southern Illinois was charged in 2016 with voter fraud after she filled out a ballot for her late husband because she said he would have wanted Trump to be president.

In California, it’s an issue of fairness to count ballots cast by people who then die before Election Day, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. He said it’s just as conceivable that someone who votes early in-person also dies before Election Day, and there is no way to identify and reject that ballot.

“The ‘dead voters’ is used as a false narrative, a pretext for changes in some states to how they register voters or count ballots when the data shows otherwise,” Padilla said.

Wisconsin, which like North Carolina is a presidential battleground this year, is among the states that prohibit a ballot from being counted if the voter dies after submitting it. Every month, the state’s election commission receives records of county death certificates, and those records are run against the statewide voter registration system.

Any potential matches are flagged to the local clerk where the voter is registered, and the clerk is responsible for verifying the match by looking to obituaries and other sources before changing the voter’s status, said Reid Magney, Wisconsin Election Commission spokesman. But that also has its limits.

“There’s no way to check every absentee ballot to make sure the voter hasn’t died since it was issued,” Magney said.

Iowa’s election office also receives death records and processes them as they are received, including on Election Day. If a person dies after requesting or returning an absentee ballot, the ballot is voided and not counted, said Kevin Hall, spokesman for Iowa’s secretary of state.

“Voters have to be eligible electors on Election Day,” Hall said. “Even though Iowa had 29 days of absentee voting, there is still only one Election Day.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318763

Reported Deaths: 3652
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin673361116
Ramsey28256505
Anoka22583228
Dakota22414190
Washington14207116
Stearns13976117
St. Louis8991112
Scott859755
Wright795543
Olmsted681134
Sherburne601541
Clay508957
Carver486215
Kandiyohi420522
Rice419237
Blue Earth418016
Crow Wing364034
Otter Tail321723
Chisago315612
Nobles309930
Benton305751
Winona284830
Douglas266837
Mower265823
Polk261224
Morrison233829
Lyon223011
Beltrami219218
McLeod217914
Becker209416
Goodhue208428
Steele19917
Isanti194217
Itasca193923
Carlton191316
Todd182514
Nicollet164026
Mille Lacs157031
Freeborn15546
Le Sueur148811
Cass146010
Brown145715
Waseca139811
Pine13958
Meeker13289
Roseau12194
Martin117420
Hubbard115725
Wabasha10781
Redwood97919
Chippewa9147
Cottonwood8964
Renville89529
Dodge8700
Watonwan8634
Wadena8156
Sibley8004
Rock7889
Aitkin77830
Pipestone74118
Fillmore7240
Houston7134
Yellow Medicine66512
Pennington6638
Kanabec62713
Swift5998
Murray5953
Faribault5732
Pope5531
Clearwater5268
Stevens5243
Marshall5059
Jackson4961
Lake4326
Koochiching3996
Wilkin3925
Lac qui Parle3863
Unassigned38559
Lincoln3651
Norman3537
Big Stone3242
Mahnomen3044
Grant2806
Kittson2298
Red Lake2163
Traverse1491
Lake of the Woods1011
Cook770

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 229327

Reported Deaths: 2395
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33896336
Linn14340166
Scott1132587
Black Hawk10968137
Woodbury10428129
Johnson964137
Dubuque927491
Story684522
Pottawattamie644070
Dallas641757
Sioux372725
Webster363936
Cerro Gordo359046
Marshall351246
Clinton333844
Buena Vista307314
Muscatine293469
Des Moines291620
Warren283214
Plymouth277142
Wapello257372
Jones233615
Jasper224344
Marion206821
Lee205017
Carroll199922
Bremer196712
Henry18417
Crawford176916
Benton171821
Tama154940
Jackson146513
Washington146215
Delaware144921
Dickinson140311
Boone138311
Mahaska127927
Wright12706
Clay11924
Buchanan118510
Hardin116510
Page11524
Hamilton11429
Clayton11238
Cedar109313
Harrison108630
Kossuth10847
Calhoun10757
Mills10647
Floyd106216
Fayette105610
Lyon10538
Butler10266
Poweshiek99713
Winneshiek98413
Iowa97612
Winnebago93124
Cherokee9014
Hancock8737
Sac8738
Grundy87111
Louisa86818
Chickasaw8664
Allamakee82811
Cass81823
Mitchell8035
Appanoose79912
Humboldt7855
Union7796
Shelby77311
Emmet76824
Guthrie76315
Franklin74321
Jefferson7252
Unassigned6950
Madison6924
Palo Alto6574
Keokuk6157
Pocahontas5644
Howard5619
Osceola5341
Greene5310
Ida50013
Clarke4904
Davis4739
Montgomery47011
Taylor4673
Monroe44712
Adair4418
Monona4402
Worth3690
Fremont3663
Van Buren3615
Lucas3296
Decatur3200
Wayne3027
Audubon3002
Ringgold2202
Adams1712
Rochester
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 26°
Mason City
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 21°
Albert Lea
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 30°
Austin
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 28°
Charles City
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 30°
Our Quiet Stretch of Weather Continues
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sara's Tuesday Evening Forecast

Image

Recycling Christmas Lights

Image

Giving Tuesday

Image

Residents of Shady Oaks getting counseling

Image

Behind the curtain of Frontline Healthcare workers

Image

Somerby Country Club Has Virtual Holiday Events

Image

Autumn Ridge Church Dinates To Food Shelf

Image

Sean's Weather 12/1

Image

Eviction Moratoriums expiring

Image

National Believe Week benefits the Make a Wish Foundation

Community Events