Reporting Colin Smith
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What happens if someone dies between the time they cast their absentee ballot and Election Day?
Does the vote count? How do election officials know?
We wanted to ask Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie about this little-discussed issue, sometimes given the moniker ‘ghost votes.’
“You can just see the headlines: ‘Dead people voting,’” Ritchie said. “In all seriousness it is something that we take very seriously.”
Of some 235,000 absentee ballots cast in Minnesota, at least 15 of those voters have died.
“Their votes do not count,” Ritchie said. “Typically we have local election officials watching obituaries and here at the state we take our list and run it against the Department of Health’s list of those who have died.”
Additionally, the state uses the national death registry for those who have died outside the state, Ritchie said.
On this issue, most swing states have laws that mirror Minnesota’s. Last month, the photo of a dying decorated WWII veteran Frank Tanabe went viral.
He died weeks after casting his absentee ballot. In Florida, that vote will not count. But that’s not the case in every state.
“In South Dakota, once you have put your ballot across the counter — that’s the funny little phrase they use — your vote has been cast,” Ritchie said.
In five other states — California, Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia — once a ballot has been submitted, it will be counted, regardless of whether the voter is alive.
Oh — the fifth state? Ohio. If it’s close in the Buckeye State on Election Night, you can expect to hear a lot about ‘dead people voting’ in the coming weeks.