Dead Voter Ballots Investigated

Officials reject several November ballots after NBC Bay Area Investigation

The November elections may be a distant memory for many of us, but several cases of voter fraud stemming from the election are still being investigated in the Bay Area.  People who allegedly entered ballots on behalf of voters who passed away are now under criminal investigation.

Nearly a dozen cases of potential voter fraud that have been referred to local district attorney offices following an NBC Bay Area investigation.

We cross-referenced the California state voter rolls with the U.S. Social Security Master Death Index and found more than 25,000 matches with the exact same name, state address, and date of birth.

Click here to see original investigation

According to state records, some of these voters appear to have voted posthumously in multiple elections, including the most recent election.

We shared our data with election supervisors across the Bay Area. Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Barry Garner flagged more than 80 ballots that went out to potentially dead residents in response to our findings. At least nine of these flagged ballots were returned with signatures that did not match the voter’s signature on their original registration form.

“That is a concern because they signed it. We didn’t count those ballots because we definitely turned them into the (District Attorney) saying these signatures don’t match we have them listed as deceased but someone voted,” Garner told NBC Bay Area.

Garner received 10 other flagged ballots in the mail, eight of which the county does not have an original signature to compare against. The other two appear to have a valid signature. All 10 of these ballots will be counted.

The number of votes currently under investigation makes less than one percent of the total statewide electorate. Still Garner maintains the importance of having a clean voter database in order to maintain the integrity of the process.

“It is significant. One is one too many,” Garner said.

One of the names Garner referred for further investigation is Carol Morrison from Palo Alto.

Carol’s husband Bill Morrison told NBC Bay Area in November that his wife passed away in May of 2004, yet he continues to receive her ballots in the mail.

“I put deceased on (it) and I put two stamps on it and mailed it back,” Morrison said previously.

Morrison maintains that he has never voted for his late wife and has made numerous attempts to notify the county that she is dead.

Despite his attempts, Carol remains actively registered and seems to be actively voting.

Election records show that someone signed and mailed in Carol Morrison’s ballot after the NBC Bay Area story aired. This marks the third consecutive presidential election Carol Morrison has voted in since her death more than eight years ago.

Officials in other counties are taking similar actions. In San Francisco County where we found 365 matches, elections officials have promised to follow up on the questionable names and have begun looking into obtaining the Social Security Death index to use as a tool to help clean up their voter rolls.

In Contra Costa County where we found 119 matches, the County Recorder is conducting a comprehensive review of their entire voter rolls and will clean all the names of deceased off the record. He has also referred at least one case to the local district attorney.

In Napa County, election officials removed 15 names from their voter rolls and have begun a review of their procedures for removing dead voters from the rolls.

State Assemblyman Paul Fong serves as chairman of California’s Elections and Redistricting Committee. After watching our investigation he and his staff say they will push for more reform to clean up the voter rolls statewide.

“Twenty five thousand is excessive actually. I believe it is excessive. We need to do a better job of that,” Fong said.

“I am committed to trying to clean the rolls. We need to protect the sanctity of voting and this is part of the sanctity of voting.”

Currently, voter registration records are maintained by each individual county. As part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, all states were required to have a centralized voter registration database by 2006.  California has yet to implement such a system.

“We are behind, we are slightly behind in that, because some states have a centralized voting base already, and so we like to be ahead of the curve but in this case we are really behind the curve,” Fong admitted.

California hopes to have a centralized database up and running by 2016.

Under current state law, anyone caught voting for a dead person faces a maximum penalty of up to three years in state prison.

Fong says he intends to explore using the Social Security Death index as one tool to indicate when a resident has died and inspect whether their name should be removed from the roll.

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