More Than 200 Dead People Shown to Have Voted in NY County Elections: Report

Friday, Nov 1, 2013  |  Updated 6:45 AM EDT
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According to a report in Newsday, 26,000 dead people are registered to vote statewide. 6,000 of them are registered in Nassau County, and according to records, a few hundred actually voted. How does that happen? Greg Cergol reports.

NEWS 4 NEW YORK

According to a report in Newsday, 26,000 dead people are registered to vote statewide. 6,000 of them are registered in Nassau County, and according to records, a few hundred actually voted. How does that happen? Greg Cergol reports.

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More than 6,000 dead people are registered to vote in Nassau County and records show about 270 of them actually voted after their deaths, according to a Newsday analysis of voter registration and federal death records.

 
The paper reports dead registered voters in Nassau County account for nearly 25 percent of the 26,500 dead people registered to vote statewide. 
 
Investigators tell the paper they don't consider the discrepancy fraudulent; the number of votes attributed to deceased voters is too small and their votes are spread out over more than two dozen elections. 
 
County elections commissioner Bill Biamonte said simple clerical errors make it seem as if the dead are voting. For example, a person voting could accidentally sign their name next to a dead person's name rather than their own in a poll registry book.

"There’s no malice, no evil intentions behind this," said Biamonte."Just election day workers or voters making mistakes."

 
"If it's a clerical error, it's a clerical error," said John Burwell, whose late mom, Evelyn Burwell, was identified as one of the dead Nassau residents who cast a vote in a recent election. "People make mistakes."

Biamonte said relatives of the deceased need to send something in writing to the county in order for their relations to be removed from voter rolls.

 
But the inflated registries are still problematic. Voting lists are used to create precinct boundaries, verify voters at the polls and audit results.
 
As a matter of course, State Board of Elections officials send Nassau and other counties list  names of people who may no longer be eligible to vote, and those names are supposed to be checked out and then deleted from the database if determined invalid.
 
Counties also send mail each year to all registered voters and, if the mail is returned unopened, those voters are removed from the active registry. They stay on an inactive list for two years before their registration is revoked, Newsday reports.
 
Other states use additional measures to ensure voting registries are updated, including the Electronic Registration Information Center, which uses multiple data points, including car registration, Social Security lists and change-of-address information to highlight names that should not be on active voting lists in a given district. 
 
A State Board of Elections spokesman told Newsday he didn't know if New York planned to enroll in some of the programs other states have found worthwhile, but Harvard University professor of government Stephen Ansolabehere told Newsday it's crucial elections officials do something to improve the accuracy of voting rolls in the county.
 
The voter roll "interacts with all aspects of the election system," Ansolabehere told the paper. "That's why it's important to keep lists as good and as current as possible."

--Greg Cergol contributed reporting

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