WAKEFIELD, Kansas – Former Kansas Governor William Avery, who died in 2009, remained an “active” voter on state registries until this week when the NBC Action News Investigators notified officials of an investigation into unqualified voters in Kansas and Missouri.
“Interesting, to say the least,” said Wakefield, Kansas City Clerk Jeri Mason when the Investigators contacted her regarding the “active” voter listed at Avery’s home address in the Clay County, Kansas town. “He. Died. Wonder how many others are out there as active voters?”
Do you have a dead relative who still receives qualfied voter notices? Email the Investigative Reporter Russ Ptacek: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mason reviewed public city records to verify the deceased person listed at the address was in fact the former Kansas governor who remained officially “active” and eligible to vote on state registries.
State records do not indicate Avery ever cast a ballot after his death, but the NBC Action News Investigators have identified records in both Kansas and Missouri where, officially, ballots were recorded as being cast using the identities of dead voters.
Clay County officials removed Avery’s name from the list of qualified voters minutes after being notified about the discrepancy by NBC Action News but were stumped to provide an explanation.
“I’m not sure,” said Clay County Clerk Kayla Wang”. “I honestly didn’t know he was still on there. We’ll investigate it and find a death certificate or obituary and we’ll remove him.”
Minutes later, Wang emailed NBC Action News saying she had disqualified the former governor from voting in future elections.
“I have pulled the local death notice and we have cancelled Mr. Avery from the roster in Clay County,” Wang wrote.
Wang blamed the error on Kansas officials who did not notify the county of the well known politician’s death.
“Just to let you know that I did pull the State Agency Match Review Report printouts from November of 2009 to current and Mr. Avery was not ever listed on the weekly death check,” Wang wrote in the email.
NBC Action News made the inquiry after reviewing thousands of voter records obtained from Kansas Watchdog Reporter Earl Glynn. Missouri Watchdog is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.
Missouri Watchdog compared qualified voter registries in Kansas and Missouri to public records of deaths reported by the Social Security Administration. Kansas Watchdog provided a list of about 6,000 qualified voters in Kansas and Missouri that the group suspects of matching Social Security death records.
Many of the names are false matches with the same name and birth date of a dead person’s identity, but the NBC Action News verified several and actually found cases were votes were recorded as being cast using the identities of the dead. The NBC Action News Investigation is scheduled for broadcast Thursday, Nov. 28th at 10:00 pm.
Officials in Kansas and Missouri are already investigating irregularities that will be identified by the NBC Action News report. A spokesman for the Kansas Secretary of State said, at first glance, it does not seem to be a case of deliberate fraud, especially in the case of the late Governor.
“Wouldn’t you pick someone more discreet if you wanted to fraud the system, not a dead celebrity?” said Kansas Secretary of State Spokesman Tyler Longpine. “I suspect a clerical error. When we identify failures, we can fix them.”
Longpine, who asked to review additional NBC Action News records, said the system has failed in the reverse in the past.
“Last week we had a live woman who went to the polling place and was marked as deceased,” Longpine said. “She had a real common name.
She identified the wrong Jane Smith in the file. It was a real case of clerical error. He said officials are still trying to determine how the Kansas Governor was still “active” on state voting records a year after his death.
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This story is interesting to me on multiple levels. First and foremost, a friend of mine, Kayla Wang, is quoted in it, but I didn’t know that when I viewed the story.
I clicked the link because of what the headline said, which is the main reason the story interested me enough to share it here.
Dead people still being registered to vote is one thing. We’re all human. Things tend to slip through the cracks, especially if systems in place, such as the State Agency Match Review Wang mentioned, don’t notify officials of voters who have died.
However, if those people actually cast ballots, that’s a whole different story. It messes up the whole democratic process. I have heard of this exact thing happening here in Ransom where I live. It isn’t a good thing. In fact, it is illegal. It’s called voter fraud.
I’m just glad there are people like Wang out there who take care of these problems as soon as they are made aware of them, despite any failures of the normal safeguards that are supposed to be in place.