Will we ever get past this?
Now several states and the Federal Government have been working on legislation to fix issues — some of those solutions are still looking for a problem by the way. But here’s the rub: I have yet to see the most glaringly obvious point addressed and that is deceased voters still voting!
Under current conditions when your loved — or hated — one passes YOU are responsible for telling the County Elections Office of their death and provide proof; the coroner’s office is not obligated to tell the Elections office! We all know the memes of a postal truck sitting at a cemetery delivering mail in ballots, but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it is the decedent’s family filling out one last vote for Mom/Dad because Mom/Dad just “would have wanted that person out” still illegal but it happens–these are one offs.
Usually, we see sensational headlines via social media “10,000 dead people voted in Michigan!” No joke that was the claim. The issue with claims like this are false positives. Much like going to the doctor and “hey your blood sugar is 209, you have diabetes,” now two simple follow ups solve the issue, “what have you eaten today?” “Candy bar and pop.” “Let’s do a Hemoglobin A1c test just to be sure.”
First issue in the sensational headline, how common is the decedent’s name? Was it John Johnson or Julio Capricorn? I can guarantee you will find a plethora of John Johnsons all born on the same day and in similar places but not Julio. So where did those commonly named people pass away? If the answers were “not in Michigan” then those get taken off the list. What remains is a much shorter list that is easy to verify with a simple knock at the door.
But Maura, what about those people who are registered to vacant lots?
Now we get into the nitty gritty of it. Databases can be absolutely amazing tools — the speed at which they can compare and contrast vast amounts of data is mind boggling; sadly, most databases are not used by highly trained data analysis technicians but by Alice who has a certificate in accounting — sorry for tossing you under the bus, Alice — and got handed the job when Tim left to pursue his lifelong dream. The point is a simple “match addresses” command can instantly show which addresses have multiple people at it. Sometimes this is understandable; extended family living together, or an eight family flat are good examples. Now as noted databases are amazing tools but the elections database of registered voters are completely separate from other county databases and typically cannot connect. So, the assessor’s empty lot/abandoned/condemned property database is not accessible to the elections department. Similarly, the coroner’s database is not available. See where issues begin to arise?
Now, absentee ballots cannot be delivered to empty property by Federal law as there is no mail receptacle. Similarly, you cannot drop ship ballots to a single address. Want proof? Ask on a Reservation where mail delivery only goes as far as the Reservation office, and you have to trek in and get it yourself.
The first answer needed is simple a daily e-mail from the coroner’s office to the Elections department, nice and simple with every positive identifier needed–they already do this for Social Security–“these are yesterday’s decedents” Alice–remember poor Alice?–can then check and delete the names from the voter rolls. Boom! One issue solved! Wouldn’t need more than a paragraph of legislation and all parties should be able to agree on it. Total cost? Good question, I guess that depends on where you are — Washington County, MO and Los Angeles County, CA are exponentially different — and how busy is Alice?
The next issue is decedent’s already there; this is partly accounted for in Federal law, if you have not voted in two consecutive Federal election cycles your name and information can be purged.
Ah, ha! We have an issue “if you haven’t,” but what about those stories of people who were born in 1904 and have never missed an election? Well, some could still be alive, that’s only 117 years ago after all, but we could add a paragraph to that legislation that registered voters who have exceeded the average life expectancy prior to requiring the coroner communicate be physically verified — more work for Alice. Upside this is a one-time expenditure of resources, but it is tedious and time consuming — Alice will need a temporary assistant or intern.
To me ballot zombies are glaring obvious issue that for some reason has just been run right past, and is simple to correct.