Seckatary of What?

Published: August 6, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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If you vote by mail, then die before Election Day, does your vote count?

Not if you live in South Dakota.

According to a (July 25) AP story, “Laws in at least a dozen states are evenly split between tallying and dumping the votes.”

Most voters had not heard of this until the issue was raised during the last primary when Florence Steen, “born before women had the right to vote,” died after completing an absentee ballot.  According to Steen’s daughter, Kathy Krause, the 88-year-old Steen had been confined to a hospice bed in Rapid City.

However, she carefully studied the ballot weeks before the June 3rd primary, “then marked her choice with such determination her daughter feared she would poke through the paper.”

After her mother died on Mother’s Day, Kathy Krause dropped the completed ballot in the mailbox within the specified time.  “But the women down at the country courthouse told Krause the ballot had to be tossed because state law declared a voter must be alive on Election Day.”

Clearly, the elder Steen followed the rules regarding the absentee ballot, filled it out, signed and dated the outside envelope. And just as clearly, she was alive when she completed all of this.

To add insult to injury, Chris Nelson, South Dakota’s Secretary of State “said he doesn’t understand why a dead person’s voteshould be counted.”

“In my mind, it’s clear,” Nelson said. “You have to be a qualified voter on Election Day. I don’t know how someone can say you’re a qualified voter if you’re deceased.”

“…it needs to be changed,” said Krause.  “What about the soldiers in Iraq? What if they vote and they’re killed in action, God forbid? Should we take away their vote because they died for their country?”

Good question.

Ballots mailed-in by military personnel are counted in individual election districts, but “like civilian votes, no one keeps track of whether the ballots of soldiers are thrown out because they died after casting them.”

Clearly this is another example of a ridiculous and unfair voting procedure that needs correction.

In a time when our country is dealing with a multitude of serious and urgent issues; a time when individuals need to vote for the leadership they believe will take the necessary steps to solve these issues, we need to have procedures in place where voters can trust that every legitimate vote is counted.

Anything less should be unacceptable.

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