Dead Voted in Washington Governor’s Race

Dead voted in governor’s race (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

At least eight people who died well before the November general election were credited with voting in King County, raising new questions about the integrity of the vote total in the narrow governor’s race, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer review has found. The evidence of votes from dead people is the latest example of flaws in an election already rocked by misplaced votes and allegations that there were thousands more votes counted than actual voters.

County officials say they are investigating the cases pointed out by the P-I. “These are not indications of fraud,” said Bill Huennekens, King County’s elections supervisor. “Fraud is a concerted effort to change an election.”

So, eight instances of corpses voting–which takes concerted effort, I’d say–is not evidence of fraud?

The P-I review found eight people who died weeks before absentee ballots were mailed out, between Oct. 13 and 15, but were credited with voting in King County. Among them was an 81-year-old Seattle woman who died in August but is recorded as having voted at the polls. The state is required by law to send monthly lists of the deceased to county auditors so they can purge those names from their voter rolls. But those lists are sent only every few months. That means thousands of deceased voters may have been sent absentee ballots. “If we don’t receive a notice that they’re dead, then we have no way of taking them off the rolls,” said Dean Logan, the county’s elections director. Relatives of the deceased can and do cancel some registrations, he said.

Fair enough. And it’s possible that some people legitimately cast absentee ballots and then died before election day.

Doris McFarland said she voted for her husband, Earl, who died Oct. 7. “I called up the elections board and said, ‘Can I do it because he wanted me to vote?’ ” the Duvall woman said. “The person … said, ‘Well, who would know?’ I said, ‘I don’t want to do anything that is wrong.’ ” Huennekens disputed that election workers would say such a thing. McFarland said she signed her husband’s name and mailed in his ballot, along with her own. She said she had power of attorney for her 92-year-old husband, who was blind. “If I did something that wasn’t right, you can just throw that ballot out,” McFarland said last night. Huennekens said one of the P-I’s eight cases involved an administrative error that showed a deceased person as voting and would be corrected. In four cases, the signatures on the ballot matched. Huennekens said officials needed further information or could not track down enough information on the other cases.

I can see no reason why McFarland would come out and say she’d been told she could do this if she hadn’t. Still, this could simply be evidence of an incompetent election worker.

The preliminary voter list shows that Mary Coffey mailed in a ballot. But the 51-year-old Seattle woman died about two weeks before absentee ballots were mailed. “She couldn’t have (voted). She died on Sept. 29,” said her husband, Michael Coffey. He added that he voted by mail, but destroyed his wife’s ballot when it arrived in the mail. “I don’t see how she could have voted. It doesn’t make sense. There has to be some kind of error that happened.”

Another possibility occurs to me.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Richard Arnone says:

    Wouldn’t you know it! Those evil Republicans are trying to disenfranchise the dead. They will stoop to anything to steal this election back.

  2. George says:

    Did all the dead guys vote Democrat (or is that a really silly question)?

  3. David Harris says:

    Didn’t the same thing happen in “Black Sheep”? Literally, the same thing, as I believe that movie was based in Washington, was centered on a governor’s race, and a politician who relied on deceased voters for her margin of victory.

  4. Jem says:

    There is a long history of the deceased voting in American history. I seem to recall reading that President Kennedy may have owed at least partial credit for his election to the success of the Daley political machine in Chicago in carrying off a successful campaign of postmortem voting.

    Of course, past success doesn’t, in and of itself, make it right for the Democrats to use that tactic consistently…

  5. dw says:

    Did all the dead guys vote Democrat (or is that a really silly question)?

    Nope. This was a three-fer set of articles, and James failed to link to the full article the guy who confessed to doing this. He voted for his dying wife as she requested — for the Republican.

    Apparently, this is a lot more common than anyone would like to admit. I even know someone who voted twice for Dubya this last turn — in Florida and Pennsylannia — because he knew there was no way he’d ever get caught.

    Still… this isn’t some example of party malfeasence. It’s like saying that random kids stealing gum from a convenience store is proof the Russian Mafia is working in the area.

  6. Mark J says:

    They want every vote to count, but don’t care if non-votes are counted too.

  7. Mike says:

    As Cokie Roberts said on one of the Sunday morning TV news programs….”In my hometown of New Orleans, we bury our dead above ground so that we can get them to the polls quicker”.