Shocking news was delivered to the North Carolina Board of Elections by the Voter Integrity Project of N.C., which reported there are just under 30,000 deceased North Carolinians still on the state’s voter roll, some of whom have been deceased for over a decade.
The Voter Integrity Project now intends to examine how the state’s election boards are sifting through information to keep their voter lists up to date.
Jay DeLancy, director of VIP-NC, said, “It’s pretty clear that a few of those cases involved clerical errors on a busy election day, but others look a lot like identity theft at the ballot box. Either way, we will need to review each one very carefully.”
John Shepherd, Ashe County director of elections, said, “The real question is how many of the deceased voted?”
“Removing deceased voters is a process,” said Shepherd. “We do an overhaul of voter list maintenance every other year (between election years).”
The board of elections receives death certificates from the Dept. of Human Resources daily, and those names are removed from the voter list as soon as they come in. This is why Shepherd called voter list maintenance an “ongoing process.”
As the system is now, if a person doesn’t show any signs of activity for two federal elections, equally four years, that person is considered inactive. If the same person isn’t active for another four years, then the person is removed from the voter list.
However, even if a person has been removed from the voter list, that person can only be considered deceased if the board of elections receives documentation confirming their death.
Usually, this isn’t a problem. However, when people die outside of the county, that information is slow coming in unless the family of the deceased reports it. As Shepherd said, the voter list would be the last thing on the family’s mind after losing a loved one.
Shepherd said, “North Carolina is a college state,” and college locations often have inactive voters registered. This is because students will register to vote in the county their college is located. When they graduate, they may forget to close their registration.
If the student doesn’t close their registration and they die after leaving college, chances are high that information will not reach the district where they attended college. That would contribute to the amount of deceased voters statewide.
Shepherd said clerical errors also contribute to the high number of the deceased who remain on the voter list. If a deceased person didn’t register their name correctly on the voter list, then the name on their death certificate will not match. In this event, the deceased will not have their name removed.
Shepherd said these errors all contribute to the high rate of deceased voters in North Carolina. However, Ashe County probably contributes far less than one percent of the state’s deceased voters, according to Shepherd.
Registration for the Nov. 6 elections will end at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12. Early voting will begin on Oct. 18 and will continue through Nov. 3. Absentee by mail ballots will be sent out on Sept. 22.
During this time, the board of elections will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday.
Any questions about the upcoming elections can be answered by the Ashe County Board of Elections by visiting them at the courthouse in suite 2100. They can also be reached by phone at 846-5570 or via website under departments and elections at www.ashecountygov.com.