Huron County resident's vote counts, despite death

NORWALK The dead tell no tales -- but evidently they can vote. A Huron County voter w
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

 

NORWALK

The dead tell no tales -- but evidently they can vote.

A Huron County voter who died not long after casting a ballot will still have a say in the upcoming election, officials say.

The voter, whose identity was not released because of voter confidentiality laws, will still have his or her ballot counted, Huron County Board of Elections director Sharon Locke said.

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Though its a demographic no one wants to be a part of, the votes of the recently deceased do matter in Ohio --as long as their absentee ballots are submitted prior to their death.

"Indeed, yes, that vote counts," said Kevin Kidder, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. "That's the law."

Not all states agree on this.

In South Dakota, an absentee ballot cast by one Sen. Hillary Clinton supporter in the Democratic Primary was considered spoiled earlier this year.

In her June 7 exit speech, Sen. Clinton spoke of Florence Steen, an 88-year-old South Dakota woman who insisted that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside.

"Her daughter and a friend put an American flag behind her bed and helped her fill out the ballot," Clinton said in her speech. "She passed away soon after and, under state law, her ballot didn't count."

Even in Ohio, this caveat is fairly new.

Deborah McDowell, director of the Erie County Board of Elections, said there was a time in her 22 years on the board when the votes of the deceased didn't count.

"A few years ago ... the law changed or was reinterpreted, and we started counting them," McDowell said.

The Erie County Board of Elections reports there may be one or two people who cast absentee ballots and have since died. The exact number is unknown because no one tracks them.

The recently deceased can pose other problems for election officials.

Deceased family members with the same name as a living relative sometimes cause confusion.

"A lot of times, it's somebody who has the same name. ... It doesn't happen here often, but we've joked about it like, 'Uh oh, we accidentally deceased one person and resurrected another,'" McDowell said.

Locke recalls one Huron County resident who voted absentee the first day possible -- fearing he might be unable to make it to the polls at a later time.

"He was here on the first day to vote and that was his exact statement: 'I want to make sure I vote, because what if something happens to me? What if I die?" Locke said.