Dead people can’t vote: What to do with their ballots

Filling out and submitting a deceased person's ballot is a class C felony

A blank Multnomah County Ballot, November 1, 2016. (KOIN)
A blank Multnomah County Ballot, November 1, 2016. (KOIN)

CLACKAMAS CO., Ore. (KOIN) — It’s rare, but it can happen — some Oregonians have reported receiving ballots in the mail addressed to people who have passed away.

It happened this month to a Clackamas County woman who posted on Facebook that she was surprised to get a ballot in the mail for her mother who died in February.

So how do these types of mistakes happen?

Funeral homes initiate the official death reporting process, and election offices regularly get lists of people who died from county and state vital records offices. They also rely on obituaries to make sure ballots aren’t sent to those no longer with us.

Oregon mail-in ballots being processed (KOIN, file)
Oregon mail-in ballots being processed (KOIN)

But the system isn’t perfect, and sometimes people slip through the cracks if a death certificate isn’t properly completed or if it hasn’t been officially filed.

Another voter, who wished to remain anonymous, told KOIN 6 News she also received a mail-in ballot for her mother after she passed away years ago.

“When my mother died on October 19, 1994 we wasted the ballot,” the woman said. “I was tempted, I was really tempted to send it in, but I didn’t.”

But what if she had decided to fill out and send in her deceased mother’s ballot?

Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott says anyone caught submitting a ballot addressed to someone else would be committing voter fraud, a class C felony.

If you get a dead person’s ballot, Scott says you just need a pen to fix the problem.

“They can write ‘deceased’ on the outside of the ballot envelope and just put it out in their mailbox and the post office will deliver it back to us,” he explained. “We will inactivate that voter based on that notification.”

For more information or to contact Oregon’s Vital Records office, click here.