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When Texans submit a voter registration application, their name, birth date, driver’s license number or four digits of their Social Security number are compared with records from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Social Security Administration. That process would flag an application on a dead person’s behalf.
The Texas secretary of state receives information regarding people who have died weekly, or monthly, depending upon the data. That information is immediately forwarded to county voter registrars so that they can remove those individuals from their voter rolls.
County officials remove thousands of dead people from the voter rolls each month.
When family members die, mail addressed to them can continue to arrive for years. A Facebook post suggests that this is a path to voter fraud.
A Facebook user copied a post from a man in Texas who said the campaign for Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, sent a voter registration form to his mother, even though she died in 2020. The post said much of his mother’s identifying information, including date of birth, was already filled in on the form.
A "dishonest recipient" could submit the voter registration form to the county and "register the deceased to vote," the Facebook post stated. "They then can request a mail ballot. With the numbers already provided for ID, they then can vote for the deceased person. No picture ID required."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook.)
It’s possible to try to register a dead relative to vote — but it’s a crime. As in other states, Texas election officials take a lot of steps to ensure that only eligible living citizens register to vote and cast ballots.
From the photos in the post, we could not see a disclaimer on the mailer to assess if it was from O’Rourke’s campaign or a third party group supporting his campaign; O’Rourke’s campaign didn’t respond to our emails.
We aren’t questioning whether a voter registration application was sent to a woman who had died. We are fact-checking how likely it is that someone could use that application to register a dead person to vote and then cast a ballot on that person’s behalf.
Evidence shows cases in multiple states of people prosecuted for casting a ballot in the name of a dead relative, but the examples are rare.
When Texans submit a voter registration application, it includes their name, date of birth, driver’s license number or four digits of their Social Security number. That information is entered into the state’s database and is then compared with records from the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Social Security Administration.
If the identifying information matches a person who is listed in state or federal records as deceased, it "would fail the validation process," said Sam Taylor, spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state.
The secretary of state’s office receives information weekly or monthly regarding people who have died, depending upon the data. That information is forwarded to county voter registrars so that they can remove those people from their rolls of eligible voters. In 2022, at least 9,000 dead voters were removed from the Texas voting rolls each month.
Despite best efforts, the process isn’t perfect. If an election official updates a voter roll on a Friday, by Monday it may already be outdated because of people who have moved or died.
Sometimes databases used by campaign vendors or nonprofits to send mail are not up to date or accurate, resulting in a mail ballot application being sent to someone who died — or even to a dead pet.
But there is no evidence that campaigns or activists are submitting application forms on behalf of dead voters, said Thessalia Merivaki, an assistant professor of American politics at Mississippi State University.
"We have no complete data on this from all states, but election officials track internally why an application is denied and states have policies to pursue cases of fraudulent registrations," Merivaki said.
If someone did attempt to register a dead relative, that application would most likely be rejected, said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, a group that advocates for voting access.
If a dead person did make it onto the voter rolls, "the person attempting to impersonate the deceased person would still have to navigate identification requirements, signature verification, and the possibility that the voter registration would be flagged once the appropriate databases did get updated," Gutierrez said.
"The odds of this person successfully casting a ballot for their dead relative are extremely low, and the odds of them using this ploy to have any meaningful impact on the outcome of an election are practically zero, whereas their odds of getting themselves into very serious legal trouble and probably spending some time in prison would be extremely high," Gutierrez said.
Voter registration applications say that giving false information is a crime punishable by fines and up to one year in jail. The same applies for mail ballot applications.
Texas election officials take steps to ensure that only eligible voters cast mail ballots. Only voters who meet specific criteria can vote by mail, such as those who are at least 65 years old, are out of town during the voting period or who have a disability. There may be limited circumstances in which someone tries to "game" the system, but it should be caught in officials’.regular updates of the voter rolls to remove dead individuals.
Convictions for ballots cast in the name of a dead relative are rare in any state.
We found other isolated convictions for casting a ballot on behalf of a dead relative in Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona in the 2020 election.
What about Texas? In 2012, Gov. Greg Abbott said 200 dead people voted in a previous election. An elections official testified that 239 voters cast ballots using voter registrations of dead Texans. But when the state further vetted that list, ultimately only four names, birth dates and Social Security numbers aligned with death certificates. As PolitiFact Texas noted at the time, there’s a difference between suspecting fraud and proving it.
A Facebook post suggests that a person can register a dead relative to vote in Texas and then cast a mail ballot in that person’s name.
It does appear some voter registration applicants have been sent to people who have died, and a nefarious person could attempt to register a dead person to vote. But this Facebook post is missing context because it overlooks the checks and balances in place to prevent exactly this scenario. When officials receive a voter registration application, they enter the applicant’s name, age, birth date, driver’s license number or Social Security number into a database. They compare that personal information with potential matches in other databases of people who have died. When there is a match, the applicant is not registered to vote.
It is a crime to sign a voter registration form with false information, seek a mail ballot on behalf of a dead person, or return a ballot on behalf of a dead person.
We rate this statement Mostly False.
Facebook post, Oct. 2, 2022
Texas secretary of state, Cancellation trend report, 2022
Texas secretary of state, SOS 101: Voter registration in Texas, Sept. 8, 2022
Politico, Dead cat at heart of Florida election controversy, March 21, 2016
PolitiFact, Greg Abbott says state proved in court that more than 200 dead people voted in the latest Texas elections, July 24, 2012
Email interview, Sam Taylor, spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state, Oct. 14, 2022
Email interview, Anthony Gutierrez, Common Cause Texas executive director, Oct. 14, 2022
Email interview, Thessalia (Lia) Merivaki, assistant professor in American Politics at Mississippi State University, Oct. 17, 2022
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