‘Voter deceased’ ballot rejections misconstrued as evidence of fraud

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office is pushing back after some news outlets have use its data on absentee ballots cast in the August primary as evidence of voter fraud.

The office announced last week that 10,694 absentee ballots were rejected across the state. The majority were tossed because they arrived after the polls closed. Others had not been signed, there was a problem with the signature or there was some other issue.

But the ballots causing questions were the 846 labeled “voter deceased” by the state. Several outlets misreported this information, leading readers to believe 846 deceased people voted.

“They had 864 dead people vote,” Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum said Monday on “Outnumbered.” “That is an intentional action. It’s a small number, but it’s worth noting, because it’s an intentional action. It’s not a mistake. So there is reason to be very cautious about how this is going to work going forward.”

Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, told News 8 Tuesday that the data doesn’t show voter fraud but rather a vetting system that works.

“Eight hundred forty-six people who were recently deceased had their ballots rejected. So flat out, that’s not voting. That’s evidence of the system working,” Wimmer said.

She said this isn’t an instance of people trying to steal a dead person’s identity to vote multiple times. Instead, she explained, people applied for an absentee ballot and submitted it but then died before the day of the election.

“The Bureau of Elections receives updates monthly with the Social Security master death index and we use that information to update the qualified voter file,” Wimmer explained. “When these people applied for their absentee ballot, they were alive and everything checked out with their identity, so they were sent one. And then after we received the monthly update, it was flagged in the qualified voter file that they had passed away, so when it came time to process and tabulate their ballot on election day, that flag came up, it showed that they had recently died and their ballot was no longer counted.”

Wimmer said the number of ballots rejected for deceased voters was actually lower than expected given the sharp rise in absentee ballots this year. In the November 2016 election, in which approximately 400,000 absentee ballots were cast, the state rejected 1,782 ballots because the voters had died prior to Election Day.

Some 1.6 million absentee votes were cast in this year’s Aug. 4 primary.