Bring out yer dead! And get them registered to vote. Or at least that seems to be the message coming from Texas Democrats this month. The Dallas CBS outlet reported this week that Texas Democrats have been aggressively mailing out voter registration forms to people all across the state. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that some of the intended recipients are not actually eligible to vote because their current status includes the phrase “six feet under.” One woman named Ola Allen was the unfortunate recipient of no less than three of these forms, leaving her in an emotionally distressed state.
Allen received a voter registration application in the mail addressed to her husband, Eroy. He died nearly three years ago. She also received an application for her mother who died two years ago.
Allen initially chalked it up to an honest mistake, but then she received another voter registration application. This one Allen said was inexcusable and hurtful. It was addressed to her daughter Karen.
“I just set it down because I lost it. I really lost it,” Allen explained.
Karen is Allen’s youngest daughter. She died when she was 21 years old in 1989.
We should be clear in pointing out that simply sending out a voter registration form isn’t illegal, even if it “accidentally” goes to a dead person. Both parties do this, though the batch examined for this article was sent out by the state Democratic Party. But if someone else takes any of those forms, fills them out and sends them in then there is a crime taking place. We already covered the ring of voter fraud recently exposed in Texas where people were filling out ballots for people, tricking them into signing them and sending them in. This little glitch probably makes that job a lot easier.
A spokesperson for the Democratic Party told CBS that the mailing of all these registration forms was part of an “unprecedented investment to provide eligible Texans with the opportunity to vote.“ I agree. If you’re sending out registration forms to three dead people in a single household, that’s pretty unprecedented, alright.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office claims that there’s little danger of voter fraud from this mess because they take steps to prevent it. The only “step” they specify is cross-referencing the returned registration forms with the Social Security Administration’s list of people who have died. That’s a sensible precaution and it no doubt weeds out some of the errors, but it’s not an acceptable level of real security.
We’ve covered this here before, but the database they’re relying on is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The problem is that their Full Death Master File (yes, that’s a creepy name) is in no way comprehensive. Submissions of death records to the file come from a mixed bag of sources and it’s totally voluntary. As of a couple of years ago, the index contained the names of 89 million people who have died since 1936. That’s not even remotely close to the actual total. Plus, they have problems with accuracy. An audit conducted in 2011 found that the file incorrectly listed 23,000 people as dead in a two-year period.
If you want to get this aspect of clean voter roles and suppression of potential voter fraud under control we have a larger problem to address. We’re very good at recording births in the United States, but we are abysmal at recording when they die. This leads to fraud problems in Social Security and other entitlement programs, but now we see how it can affect voting as well. Until we find a better way to track who is dead and who is alive at any given time we’ll be chasing our tails on this subject.