Wright County has 100 dead voters


CLARION – The Wright County auditor’s office is being asked to examine its list of registered voters after the Iowa secretary of state’s office found that 100 names on that list are of people who have died.

The discovery was made by the secretary of state’s office after it compared voter registration lists with the Social Security death index.

Chance McElhaney, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said that, statewide, the names of 1,234 dead voters were discovered during a “routine check.”

“The information we used is the voter’s name, birth date, previous address on file, and, if it’s available, the last four digits of their social security number,” McElhaney said. “We were matching those together.”

Wright County Auditor Betty Ellis was not available for comment Wednesday.

The Secretary of State’s office has sent letters to county auditors letting them know of the names of dead registered voters.

“The information is given to the county auditors so they can analyze the list and determine whether it’s a correct match,” McElhaney said. “This was done in 2012, and the overwhelming response from county auditors was that the information was helpful.”

McElhaney said there could be any number of reasons as to why people who are dead still appear on voter registration lists.

“There may not have been an obituary or the county auditor’s office may not have seen one,” he said. “Towards the end of life, maybe somebody moved out of state so the death was reported in that state, but not necessarily in Iowa. There could be a multitude of other reasons.”

However, McElhaney said he didn’t believe the names were left on intentionally or because of bad record-keeping.

“It’s just routine voter list maintenance,” he said. “We’re doing our due diligence.”

He also didn’t believe any of the voters were on the list because of identity theft.

“The people on the list haven’t had any voting activity since the date they were deceased,” he said.

McElhaney said county auditors will make absolutely sure that the people who have been flagged as dead are in fact no longer living.

“Perhaps there’s someone with the same name and birth date in the county,” McElhaney said. “We want to make sure we have the right person. If they are, the county auditors will update their list and remove a voter if they’re deceased. If they’re not, then obviously we want them to continue voting and participating, so we’ll leave them on the list.”

“It’s useful information for county auditors to possibly catch some individuals that may have been deceased but weren’t caught,” he added.

McElhaney said the goal is to make all the voter registration lists accurate.

“It’s routine maintenance working with the county auditors,” he said. “We’re making sure the list is as accurate as possible.”

The 100 names of dead voters in Wright County are the second-highest in the state. Linn County has the most with 103.

Wright County has a population of 13,229, according to the United States Census Bureau.