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Alleged voting by the dead

Published: November 10, 2007

There are a handful of known cases in which votes have been cast in the names of individuals who have died before the vote was submitted.

It is far more common, however, to see allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave, with a chuckle and a reference to Gov. Huey Long’s quip (“When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”) or Rep. Charlie Rangel’s update (same idea, but takes place in Chicago).

Here, too, flawed matches of lists from one place (death records) to another (voter rolls) are often responsible for misinformation. Sometimes the interpretation is flawed: two list entries under the same name—even the same name and birthdate—indicate different individuals. Sometimes the lists themselves are flawed: because of the occasional clerical error by overworked and undertrained election workers, an individual is marked as voting when she did not in fact cast a ballot. Sometimes it’s both.

Or, sometimes the match is accurate but reveals nothing illegal about the vote: the voter has died, yes, but after casting her ballot.

  • In New Jersey in 2004, 4755 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot; no follow-up investigation appears to document any substantiated cases, and no allegedly deceased voter voted in 2005.
  • In New York in 2002 and 2004, 2600 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot; journalists followed up on 7 cases, and found no instances of fraud.

The following resources document and analyze allegations of voting in the name of deceased individuals.