The Misleading Rhetoric Over Dead People Voting

Nov 22, 2016

Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign and its supporters have filed a lot of complaints about the election. There are complaints about the counting of absentee ballots, complaints about voting machines, complaints about how election workers did their jobs. And then there are complaints that name specific voters targeted for removal from the voting record. These voters are accused of being convicted felons ineligible to vote, similar to what our own former Mayor Patrick Cannon did a few years ago.  

Some voters are accused of voting in multiple states. And then there’s the oldie-but-goodie: dead people voting (gasp!). This one has always intrigued me. In West Virginia, I used to hear a lot of stories about dead people voting – and a lot of jokes. No matter where you’re buried in the cemetery, everyone’s vote counts the same. Or something like that.

But allegations about dead people voting pop up everywhere. The McCrory campaign's rhetoric has tried to reinforce this notion that dead people voting is a big deal.

"Protests are being filed in 50 counties to challenge known instances of votes being cast by dead people, felons or individuals who voted more than once," reads one campaign release from last week.

McCrory's spokesman, Ricky Diaz, questioned why Roy Cooper is "so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons."

And on WFAE, North Carolina Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes declared, "There are instances of dead people voting."

Sounds scary.

But the truth is the votes of dead people are counted on Election Day all the time. If you vote by mail-in absentee or in-person early voting - but die before Election Day - by law, your vote isn’t supposed to count. You have to be alive on Election Day. Now, if no one challenges the vote, chances are the vote will be counted. But the vote can be successfully challenged, confirms Josh Lawson, general counsel of the N.C. Board of Elections.

In Cabarrus County, a Republican challenged the votes of five dead people. All voted early, according to state Board of Elections records.

I found obituaries for four of the voters. Their ages were 62, 71, 94, and 96. Three voted by absentee mail, the other by in-person early voting. In three of the cases, the obituaries show they died after they voted. In the fourth case, the mail-in vote of the 96-year-old was officially received a few days after death, but it’s reasonable to believe the vote was mailed before she died.

I didn't check the voting record and obituaries of all deceased voters whose votes were challenged, but I'll go out on a limb and say there are similar examples of dead people voting in other counties.

Some of them may have even voted for Gov. McCrory.

Greg Collard is WFAE's News Director