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Should Votes Of Dead People Be Counted?

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Should Votes Of Dead People Be Counted?

By The Associated Press

(Washington) If you vote by mail, but die before Election Day, does your vote count? It depends on where you lived.

Oregon counts ballots no matter what happens to the voter. So does Florida. But in South Dakota, if you die before the election, so does your vote.

Increasingly popular mail-in ballots mean voters can now choose candidates up to 60 days before an election, raising new questions about an age-old phenomenon normally associated with chicanery in places like Chicago: What should be done with the ballots of the recently dead?

Laws in at least a dozen states are evenly split between tallying and dumping the votes. No one keeps records on how often such deaths occur.

Yet in this year?s contentious campaign, the right of every American to a counted ballot has become a rallying cry - even if the voter dies before the tallying starts.

Take the case of Florence Steen, an ailing 88-year-old grandmother born before women had the right to vote. One of her last wishes was to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She wanted to be part of history, said her daughter Kathy Krause.

Steen was confined to a hospice bed in Rapid City, S.D., when she was brought an absentee ballot weeks before the June 3 primary. She studied it a long time, then marked her choice with such determination her daughter feared she would poke through the paper.

Steen died on Mother?s Day. With a heavy heart, her daughter took the ballot and dropped it in a mailbox. ?In my mind, her vote counted,? Krause said. ?My mother believed she had voted for a woman to be president.?

But the women down at the county courthouse told Krause the ballot had to be tossed because state law declared a voter must be alive on Election Day.

So Krause passed that word to the Clinton campaign. And Clinton drew great applause when she told the story in her concession speech four days after the South Dakota primary.

?It?s just a goofy law, and it needs to be changed,? said Krause, who plans to lobby state legislators to reverse that statute just as soon as her grief eases.

?What about the soldiers in Iraq? What if they vote and they?re killed in action, God forbid? Should we take away their vote because they died for their country??

There are no military standards governing voting by soldiers. Rather, their mailed-in ballots are counted at the individual election districts where they are registered to vote. But like civilian votes, no one keeps track of whether the ballots of soldiers are thrown out because they died after casting them.

?No one can tell you that,? said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, head of the Overseas Voting Foundation in Munich. ?Every single election jurisdiction can do it the way it wants. And there are more than 7,000 of them.?

Thirty-one states allow some form of early voting.

Ballots cast by the dead are usually the focus of fraud allegations, as happened in Washington?s extremely tight 2004 gubernatorial race, decided by a margin of 129 votes out of 3 million cast. More than a dozen ballots were linked to dead people.

But some advocates say legitimate, mail-in votes from people who die before Election Day should be counted, particularly in rural elections, where races can hang on a handful of votes.

?In Montana, there have been several legislative seats decided by one, two, three votes,? said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization that recently looked at 12 mostly Western states and found that half have no rules governing ballots of the deceased.

Those remaining states - Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota and Utah - demand that such ballots be rejected, leaving Montana and Oregon as the only states that count them.

South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said he doesn?t understand why a dead person?s vote should be counted.

?In my mind, it?s clear,? Nelson said. ?You have to be a qualified voter on Election Day. I don?t know how someone can say you?re a qualified voter if you?re deceased.?

Pam Smith, director of the advocacy group Verified Voting, disagrees: ?By definition, the day you cast a ballot is Election Day. That?s it.?

Mail-in ballots arrived in record numbers during this year?s protracted primary season.

In California?s San Diego County, for example, 45 percent of the presidential vote arrived by mail. Similar numbers surfaced across the country. Election experts have predicted that as many as 25 percent of voters will vote by mail in November.

Dan Seligson, an editor at electionline.org, a voter watchdog organization, said ballots from the recently deceased could affect the contentious presidential showdown between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

?It could be a great contribution to any legal challenge,? he said. ?That?s what happened in 2000, when we had this perfect storm of questions about ballot counts, ballot designs, and dead voters.?

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There are some parts of the country where the dead rise in mass to vote for the political machine politicians... you know- like Chicago. Cough, cough, wink, nudge, nudge.

I wonder if someone in Hollywood isn't crass enough to do: The Election Day After the Night of the living Dead.

Hey Pecman...

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If you are dead on the actual election day, your vote should not count. You weren't alive to vote and therefore should have no vote. If your corpse was brought to a polling place election day, your vote would be prohibited. Why is this case different.

(In matters of the undead, I might reconsider this policy)

I must politely disagree. You must be alive at the time of voting for your vote to count. If the state allows voting prior to the formal election day, then, technically, those earlier days are also election days. The "formal" election day, in this case, is merely the last day you are allowed to vote.

This is one of the things I have trouble understanding about the USA electoral system. If voting is such an important thing, why do the rules vary from state to state? Australia has a federal non-partisan body to oversee the elections (state and federal), and to make decisions on the rules. It is not left up to politicians to make the decisions on what's allowed. The rules for state elections do vary between the states, but the rules for the federal election are the same across the entire country.

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I must politely disagree. You must be alive at the time of voting for your vote to count. If the state allows voting prior to the formal election day, then, technically, those earlier days are also election days. The "formal" election day, in this case, is merely the last day you are allowed to vote.

Excellent way to look at it. Makes sense. And without a defining law saying you must be alive on that last day for your vote to count, that argument is as good as any.

This is one of the things I have trouble understanding about the USA electoral system. If voting is such an important thing, why do the rules vary from state to state?

I don't know the answer to that, so anything I say is speculation, but I can think of why that might have transpired the way it did. In our earliest days as an independent nation, there were vast differences in the population. In the Northeast, most of the population was in cities, and so most could be served by voting on one day. It would have been convenient for the majority to get to a polling place and back home on the same day. In Southern states, most of the populace was agrarian, and it was spread out. It's quite possible that to have a large number of people vote, they had to have different polling laws in place to serve a more spread out populace.

In the early days, even though we were one country, I think people felt much more loyalty to and part of their own state than members of one country. It makes sense that the laws that were promulgated were promulgated by the states separately.

But again, I'm guessing.

C

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In the U.S. it is up to the individual states to determine how electors are chosen in the presidential election. There is nothing in the constitution that mandates that the popular vote be used, though all states now use that method. During the 1800s in many states the electors were chosen by the state legislators.

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This is one of the things I have trouble understanding about the USA electoral system. If voting is such an important thing, why do the rules vary from state to state?

There are a lot of oddball things about the U.S., and some of the things pertaining to government were specifically done to modernize the British system and give some power to the individual states. An essay on the Electoral College system on Wikipedia explains some of it.

There are many U.S. citizens who have called for a change in a lot of the old laws, particularly to make certain things (like the age of consent and popular vote) consistent across the country. But there are others who fight these changes, so it's not an easy battle. We have a lot of nutty, opinionated people here; bear in mind there are more people in California than there are in all of Australia, crowded into a fraction of the space.

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More importantly, I think, is a very long standing policy that states that any power not given to the federal government within the constitution is automatically within the purview of the state governments. It's called 'state's rights' and we actually fought a war over it...so it's protected pretty aggressively.

cheers!

aj

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We have a lot of nutty, opinionated people here; bear in mind there are more people in California than there are in all of Australia, crowded into a fraction of the space.

Just a clarification for those not lucky or enlightened enough to actually live in California. Pec is right, there is a lot of crowding here. We have ten percent of the country's population in our one state. However, it's a rather large state, larger than all others except Alaska and Texas. And, more pertinent, over two-thirds of our population lives in three metropolitan areas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Of the thirty million or so fortunate souls who can claim to be called Californians, well over 20 million of them have addresses in the areas surrounding and within those three cities.

Which means while there is crowding in three locations, the rest of the state is faily empty.

C

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I still think

The Election Day After the Night of the Living Dead

could be a great black comedy.

Zombie 1: Who ya Gonna vote for?

Zombie 2: Obama- his brains are fresher...

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