All votes should count — even if the voter died right after casting their ballot


Clare Sharkey | The Ticker

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

Much of the month of November was sucked up by the 2020 elections — voting and early voting, mail-in ballots, supposed fraud, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, declarations of winning, a refusal to concede and, of course, lots and lots of counting.

However, as December begins, reports about the election are still coming in as people review the processes that led to former Vice President Joseph Biden becoming the president-elect.

One unresolved issue from this election season is the subject of what to do with early votes that were cast right before a person died.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states decided to allow early in-person voting and expanded early mail-in voting so that people who were concerned about catching the virus didn’t have to come out to vote in the big crowds of Election Day.

Early in-person voting resulted in hours-long lines in a lot of places, including New York City, which probably defeated the purpose of keeping people out of crowds. Mail-in or absentee ballots were also utilized by thousands of Americans.

It is unclear what happens to a vote when someone votes before Election Day on Nov. 3, either by early in-person polling locations or through the mail and dies after casting their ballot.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the states of Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, Missouri and Pennsylvania, among others, decided to handle this situation by discarding the votes of people who died.

The logic, albeit flawed, seems to be, “People are supposed to vote on Election Day. If you’re dead before Nov. 3. your vote shouldn’t count, even if it was cast back when you were still alive.”

Other states, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Ohio, do count these types of votes.. This leaves 26 states without any clear laws on the matter whatsoever.

While this might not seem like the most common situation to occur, it’s still problematic and unprofessional that so many states don’t have concrete plans on what to do with these kinds of votes and in a pandemic, the situation gets even worse.

In a possible scenario, if someone sends their mail-in vote by the last week of October and dies on Nov. 3, their vote will not be counted.

Situations like this one were reported on by CNN, such as the case of 84-year-old retiree Marvin Thielman, who voted for current President Donald Trump by mail, right before dying of coronavirus.

His vote was not counted.

Similar cases popped up around the country from people with fatal non-coronavirus related illnesses, elderly people and people who did catch COVID-19 dying after casting fully legal early votes.

“In Michigan, 864 ballots were thrown out during this year’s primary election after officials discovered that the voters had died,” according to an article from FOX News.

States need to take a moment to come up with concrete laws regarding this issue so that during the next election cycle, poll and elections workers know exactly how to handle these kinds of situations.

On top of that, states that do not count legal votes from people who died after voting should rethink their policies.

Some states claim that they do not count these sorts of votes because it is a way to curb election fraud, but it’s not fraud if the vote was cast legally by someone who was alive at the time.

On top of that, voter fraud is such a rare occurrence that not counting these votes would likely hurt law-abiding voters more than anything else — making the law an act of voter suppression.

“Overall, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, according to experts who study it,” the CNN article reported. “A sweeping 2007 review by the Brennan Center for Justice found fraud incident rates of between 0.0003% and 0.0025%, and other studies have come to similar conclusions.”

Everyone’s vote should count, no matter their political party or anything else. If a person voted legally, that should be all that matters. Afterall, they did the right thing and completed their civic duty of voting. They had no control over the fact that they died afterward.