Voter Integrity Project of NC has delivered to the NC Board of Elections, today, the names of just under 30,000 deceased NC residents who were still on the state’s voter roll, in some cases, for almost a decade.
The group’s work is the key finding from their “citizen audit” of how the state’s election boards have been conducting their list maintenance duties. The group’s baseline data of North Carolina’s electorate came from the state election board website on August 4, 2012. The deceased voters’ names were requested from the NC Division of Public Health and covered a period from January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2012.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to our citizen auditors from all across the state who have spent, literally, thousands of man-hours verifying this information,” said Jay DeLancy, Director of VIP-NC, “and as a result of their tireless sacrifice, we have a great product that will help clean up the voter rolls.”
VIP-NC volunteers designed their own data-matching software in order to compare the names from two of the state’s massive data files that are public record. The August 4 file of NC’s voter roll contained approximately 6.3 million registered voters while the list of deceased citizens contained nearly 750,000 names.
“With help from the training we provided, our volunteers visually confirmed each of the 30,000 matched records,” DeLancy said. “Sometimes they had to use good judgment when, for example, the voter lived on a rural route address and the deceased person lived at a named street; but in a case like that, if the person’s name matched from both files and the age matched, then we believed that we had the same person.”
The group decided to conduct their audit of the voter rolls amid concerns about how well the State maintains the voter rolls. While they have not completed the full report, the group is still analyzing the actual cases of deceased persons who may have had votes cast in their names after having already died.
“It’s pretty clear that a few of those cases involved clerical errors on a busy election day,” DeLancy said, “but others look a lot like identity theft at the ballot box. Either way, we will need to review each one very carefully.”
The research almost ground to a halt when the group learned that some of the names on the list were from out-of-state deaths and are considered “unofficial,” even though the deaths were all reported through official government channels.
“It would seem normal for all states to share their death records with their out-of-state counterpart agencies,” said John Pizzo, Director of Research for VIP-NC, “but we were floored when North Carolina’s Registrar told us that South Carolina and Virginia have laws explicitly prohibiting the use of their mortality information for voter roll maintenance. Imagine that! We can use it for issues like corporate ownership and taxation, but not for taking dead people off the voter rolls!”
The group also learned that some county election boards were minimizing the number of deceased voters on their roll by cross checking with other county offices. This finding led the State Board of Elections to issue new guidance in late July that formally institutes the data-sharing practice.
Earlier this week, Gary Simms of the Wake County Board of Elections, praised Voter Integrity Project’s work while he informed the Wake Board of Elections that his office had finished installing software that will allow updates of the Wake County voter roll as soon as the Register of Deeds receives a Death Certificate.
“A lot of these practices are holdovers from before the records were stored on-line,” said Pizzo, a retired Quality Engineer, “but we’re confident this effort will lead to more data sharing between county and state agencies ane election boards and it might even help build some confidence in our election process.”
Below are the documents referenced in the above press release