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That photo of a mail truck in a cemetery? It’s an ode to past relationships, not about dead voters
Workers prepare absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 3, 2020. (AP) Workers prepare absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 3, 2020. (AP)

Workers prepare absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 3, 2020. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 17, 2024
Sara Swann
By Sara Swann January 17, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • The photo of the mail truck in the cemetery comes from a 2019 blog post. Although the photo was unrelated to voting, social media users have taken it out of context for years to spread claims about dead people voting.

  • Cases of people voting on dead people’s behalves are rare. State election officials have processes to verify voters’ identities and ensure election integrity.

  • Our mission: Help you be an informed participant in democracy. Learn more.

It’s one of the spookiest zombie claims out there about voter fraud: Dead people are voting.

Former President Donald Trump has said this multiple times, including after losing the 2020 election.

In January 2021, Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that "close to 5,000" dead people voted in the state. But officials found only a handful of cases.

Social media users also have falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of ballots were sent to dead people — and pets — in Virginia and Nevada.

As evidence, these posts often share the same photo of a mail truck in a cemetery, some claim Democrats have something to do with it.

It’s possible to view these social media posts — many with laughing emojis — as a joke, which is why we aren’t fact-checking these claims on our Truth-O-Meter. However, these posts spread the falsehood that U.S. elections are marred by widespread fraud.

(Screengrab from X)

"It is sadly another tactic to sow distrust in the election process by bad faith actors," said Thessalia Merivaki, an American politics associate professor at Mississippi State University. But the process to verify voters’ identities is "robust" across states, and people can be charged with voter fraud if they try to get a ballot on behalf of a dead person, she said.

Donald Kirk Hartle, a Nevada Republican, told a TV station in 2020 that he was "surprised" that someone cast a ballot in his late wife’s name. His claim eventually collapsed, as investigators concluded that Hartle had cast the fraudulent ballot.

In summer 2022, we found instances of people prosecuted for casting mail ballots in the name of a dead person in recent years. But these cases were sporadic and did not change an election’s outcome. Some media outlets reported that some of the people voting in this way voted for Trump.

Mail truck photo comes from a blog post about relationship closure

We traced the photo of the U.S. Postal Service truck parked in a cemetery to a July 2019 blog post titled "Delivering mail to a cemetery." Gina DeNicola, author of the blog "Heart Written Words," confirmed to PolitiFact that she took the photo at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives. When she saw the truck drive into the cemetery to deliver mail to the funeral home’s office, she snapped a photo and began brainstorming her next blog post. Her blog entries are largely about her life experiences.

In the July 2019 post, DeNicola wrote that the mail truck and a conversation with a friend inspired her to write a letter to the "men from my past" to get closure about old relationships. DeNicola shared the blog post on her social media accounts, as usual.

But social media users misconstrued the photo.

DeNicola, a registered Democrat, said she was "completely unaware and very surprised" that social media users took her photo out of context and said she regrets that it’s being misused to spread false claims about dead people voting.

A Mount Olivet Funeral Home and Cemetery spokesperson said the photo was likely taken at the cemetery, but it was difficult to say for certain because the cemetery spans more than 200 acres.

Why dead people’s names on voter rolls do not equal fraud

Typically when voters die, it’s rare that their relatives contact the local elections office to ask that the person be removed from the voter rolls. But elections offices routinely receive death records from state and federal sources and then remove dead voters from voter rolls.

Errors happen, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re linked to nefarious activity.

For example, in Michigan a few years ago, a voter born in 1823 was listed in the voter rolls, but that was because of a typographical error. Also, having a dead person’s name on state voter rolls does not automatically equal fraud. It’s a crime only if someone fills out a ballot in a dead voter’s name and sends it in.

Each month, Tennessee’s Davidson County, which includes Nashville, removes voters identified through health department-supplied death certificates, said Jeff Roberts, the county’s elections administrator.

Many states are part of the national Electronic Registration Information Center, which sends reports to member states showing when voters have moved or died. Many Republican-led states stopped participating in 2023, after misinformation spread about the center’s funding.

State laws vary on whether ballots from voters who die before Election Day should be counted, the National Conference of State Legislatures found.

In the November 2016 election, Michigan rejected more than 1,780 such absentee ballots.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.

RELATED: Successful program finds voters who moved or died. Why are states leaving it before 2024 elections?

RELATED: Debunking the zombie claim that ‘dead people always vote Democrat’

RELATED: All of our fact-checks about elections

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Our Sources

Email interview, Gina DeNicola, writer and blogger from Nashville, Tennessee, Jan. 16, 2024

Email interview, Martha Johnson, spokesperson for the USPS, Jan. 16, 2024

Email interview, Thessalia Merivaki, associate professor in American politics at Mississippi State University, Jan. 16, 2024

Email interview, Jeff Roberts, Davidson County, Tennessee election administrator, Jan. 17, 2024

Phone interview with Mount Olivet Funeral Home and Cemetery spokesperson, Jan. 17, 2024

Heart Written Words, "Delivering Mail to a Cemetery," July 25, 2019

X, search for posts about "mail truck in cemetery," accessed Jan. 16, 2024

X post, Jan. 9, 2024

X post, Sept. 26, 2020

Facebook, search for posts about "mail truck in cemetery," accessed Jan. 16, 2024

Facebook post, Dec. 5, 2023

Facebook post, Jan. 15, 2024

Instagram post, Jan. 4, 2024

TikTok, search for posts about "mail truck in cemetery," accessed Jan. 16, 2024

TikTok video, Aug. 12, 2022

Telegram post, Dec. 13, 2023

Heritage Foundation, voter fraud database, Accessed Jan. 16, 2024

Detroit Free Press, Michigan SOS: More than 10,000 primary election ballots invalid, many due to late arrival, Aug. 14, 2020

National Conference of State Legislatures, When an eligible voter casts an absentee (or mail) ballot, then dies before the election, does the ballot still count?, Jan. 4, 2024

PolitiFact, "Trump’s falsehoods about mail voting in Nevada, fact-checked," Sept. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "Dead voters on Detroit’s voter rolls, including person born in 1823? That post is outdated," Nov. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, "List of alleged dead voters in Wayne County does not provide evidence of voter fraud," Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, "How the GOP spun a 'dead voter' allegation in Nevada," Oct. 26, 2021

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump Jr. distorts Michigan data on dead voters," Aug. 18, 2020

PolitiFact, "Post wrongly says thousands of ballots sent to dead people, pets in Virginia and Nevada," Sept. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, "Are dead people among the names in Wisconsin voter roll purge?," Jan. 30, 2020

PolitiFact, "Post wrongly says thousands of ballots sent to dead people, pets in Virginia and Nevada," Sept. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, "Here's what Donald Trump asked Georgia election officials in phone call about 2020 election," July 25, 2023

Reverse-image searches using Google, Yandex and Tineye, Jan. 16, 2024

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That photo of a mail truck in a cemetery? It’s an ode to past relationships, not about dead voters