- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In what would be her last conscious act, 90-year-old Trixie Porter gripped a pen in her weak, trembling hand, checked the candidates of her choice and scrawled a squiggled signature on her absentee ballot.

Within an hour, the petite woman who had been suffering from heart problems lay back in her hospital bed, closed her eyes and never woke up. Her ballot arrived at her local elections board two days later, Oct. 5 — the day she died.

“We commented that day that it probably won’t count,” daughter Cheryl McConnell said. “But she went to her grave not knowing any different. It counted with her.”

An untold number of ballots like Mrs. Porter’s indeed will be counted in many states because of the haphazard and cumbersome process of enforcing laws to weed out the absentee votes of those who die by Election Day.

With millions of voters taking advantage of early voting in at least 30 states this year, it is even more certain that such “ghost” votes will be counted because, in most cases, those ballots are impossible to retrieve.

Considering that an average of 455 voting-age persons die in Florida every day, and that the 2000 presidential election was decided by a mere 537 votes, dead voters who slip through the cracks could matter.

The problem has arisen as an unintended consequence of laws meant to prevent a repeat of the 2000 election furor. Unlike traditional mail-in absentee ballots that are stored in labeled envelopes and can be pulled if someone dies, most of the new “in-person” early voting is being done on machines with no paper ballot to tell how those people voted.

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