Florida isn’t the only state where in-person voting opens today. Residents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho and North Dakota will also be able to cast their ballots today.
Tomorrow it is the turn of voters in Hawaii, Louisiana, Utah and Wisconsin. West Virginia follows on Wednesday.
The US election system is completely decentralised, which is why there is such a variation on dates and rules between states. Christina A. Cassidy reports this morning for the Associated Press on one particular question – what happens to your early vote if you die after it has been cast?
She spoke to Hannah Carson in North Carolina. At 90 years old and living through a global pandemic, Carson knows time may be short. She wasted no time returning her absentee ballot for this year’s election.
As soon as it arrived at her senior living community, she filled it out and sent it back to her local election office in Charlotte, North Carolina. If something were to happen and she doesn’t make it to election day, Carson told AP she hopes her ballot will remain valid. “I should think I should count, given all the years I have been here,” she said.
But in North Carolina, a ballot cast by someone who subsequently dies can be set aside if a challenge is filed before election day with the county board of elections.
Seventeen states prohibit counting ballots cast by someone who subsequently dies before the election, but 10 states specifically allow it. The law is silent in the rest of the country, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Even though a law might require such ballots to be rejected, it’s likely that some could still count depending on when the person dies and when election officials find out about the death.
“The law may say that the ballot of a person who dies in that situation can’t be counted, but it is a hard law to follow,” said Wendy Underhill, head of elections for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
When someone dies close to an election, it takes time for death records to be updated, and there is a narrow window between when a ballot is cast and counted. Colorado in 2016 had between 15 and 20 instances of voters who cast a ballot by mail and then died before Election Day. All were counted.
In Michigan’s primary earlier this year, 864 ballots were rejected because the voters died before the election even though they were alive when they filled them out. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a story about the dead voters in Michigan that was later debunked for misrepresenting the issue.
With President Trump making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, the question of whether ballots will count if early voters die soon after could be a source of further conspiracies to come.