Ballots cast in Houston using dead voters' names

Thursday, Oct 09, 2008, 11:07PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal

Thousands on the rolls after death, creating potential for fraud

Woodwick Street was quiet -- with a few residents working in their yards and adding to post-storm brush piles at the curb -- when Texas Watchdog visited on a recent Saturday to try to find Harris County voter Linda K. Hill.

"I'm sorry, but she passed on two years ago," said a mustached man wearing a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap and driving a motorized chair down the street. He was Linda Hill's husband, Henderson Hill Jr.

Linda Kay Hill, a homemaker and Louisiana native, died Aug. 2, 2006, of a heart attack, her husband recalled, and is buried at Houston Memorial Gardens in Pearland. But Harris County voter records indicate she –- or someone using her identity –- cast a ballot in the November election that year. Linda Hill of Woodwick Street voted in person on Election Day, records show.

She is among the more than 4,000 people whose names are listed both on Harris County's voter rolls and also in a federal database of death records, a Texas Watchdog analysis has found.

And dozens of those people, like Linda Hill, have apparently cast ballots from beyond the grave, records since 2004 show. One expert says the number of deceased names used to cast ballots may be higher than what Texas Watchdog's analysis found.

Instances of dead voters' names being used to cast ballots were most frequent in three elections, the November 2004 general election, the November 2006 general election and the March 2008 Democratic primary, the analysis found.

Less than a month away from an election to decide the highest office in the land, some advocates worry that such errors in the voter records open the door for fraud, compromise the integrity of results and lessen voter confidence in the system.

The findings come as the group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has faced scrutiny in multiple states for allegedly improper voter registrations -- including players for the Dallas Cowboys, not in the Lone Star State, but in Nevada. The group's Nevada offices were raided by state officials earlier this week.

That's as officials in at least six states may have improperly removed tens of thousands of voters from the rolls or prevented them from registering, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

'Counterfeiting' of votes threatens electoral process

"This is subverting the ballot," said John Fund, a Wall Street Journal columnist and author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. "Just like you counterfeit dollars, we take it seriously, if you counterfeit votes we should take it equally seriously, and we should punish people seriously for trying to subvert democracy."

And 4,000 voters isn't chump change, even though the figure is a tiny fraction of Harris County's 1.9 million registered voters.

Elections have been decided by less: By fewer than 300 votes, Andres Pereira edged out Bruce Mosier to win the Democratic nomination for 190th District judge in March. Democrat Hubert Vo squeaked by Republican Talmadge Heflin in 2004 to win a state House seat by 33 votes, according to an official recount. And George W. Bush actually won Florida by 1,665 votes in 2000, according to a hand recount after the election commissioned by USA Today, the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder.

Even one wrong record, his wife's, worries Henderson Hill.

Speaking in the dining room of the home in the East Little York/Homestead neighborhood where the couple moved in 1976, Hill said he didn't know why or how the county would have recorded his late wife as voting three months after her death. He's curious to know how it happened -- and concerned about whether her identity has been stolen.

"I'd like to know if anyone had (gotten) a hold of her driver's license or something," said the retired mechanic for Houston's Metro system. "I really don't know who would do that."

The couple were married 34 years. Henderson Hill confirmed that his late wife was born on the same day as the person listed by Harris County as having voted in November 2006, and her Social Security number is also the same as that found in the Social Security Administration's death records.

The issue of dead voters on the Texas rolls has come up before.

A November 2007 state audit found records of more than 23,000 registered voters who may have died. Those cases have since been investigated, said Ann McGeehan, director of elections at the Secretary of State's office. Records of confirmed dead voters were removed, she said.

McGeehan spoke with KPRC Channel 2's investigative team, with whom Texas Watchdog shared its analysis. (Click screenshot at left to see KPRC Local 2's video.)

In recent years, concerns about voter fraud have prompted a national movement to require photo identification at the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld Indiana's voter ID law, a decision seen as reassurance that similar laws in other states requiring voters to show photo identification, or ID without a photo, could survive legal tests.

Critics of the voter ID movement say such laws make it too difficult for people to exercise their right to vote and are especially tough on poor people, who may not already have a driver's license or other photo ID and can't afford the fees that come with securing identification.

In Texas, voters must identify themselves at their polling place, but they are not limited to their voter registration card or photo ID. Voters may use a driver's license, a birth certificate, a passport, utility bill, bank statement or paycheck, among other options.

Obituaries, death records used in cleaning up rolls

Officials say they make every effort to rid the voter rolls of dead people. Workers in the Harris County tax assessor and voter registrar's office comb through obituaries, death certificates and legal documents filed after a person's death. They use those records, along with confirmation from family members, to identify dead people on the rolls.

"We do all we can, but you know, we'd rather err on the side of leaving people on the roll instead of taking them off inadvertently," George Hammerlein, director of Harris County voter registration, told KPRC-Local 2 Investigates.

Hammerlein said the office has "never had any evidence" of an organized attempt to defraud the system. And given the volume of records the office deals with, Hammerlein said a few thousand is not huge.

"Four thousand out of 1.9-something-million voters represents a fairly small percent," he said. "I think, in the grand scheme of things, it's small."

But Fund said it's hard to determine whether the 4,000 is the extent of the problem. And the analysis did not cover felons, people who've moved out of state and duplicate records within the voter rolls.

"Let's say somebody is registered who doesn't exist. How would you know that that was an improper vote?" Fund said. "All you have is an address. The person shows up at the polls, signs a signature, can vote. How would you know an improper vote has been cast? You wouldn't."

In addition to the local efforts, the Secretary of State's office compares voter rolls with the Department of State Health Services' records of deaths. When the death records and voter rolls match on name, date of birth and Social Security number, the office asks local officials to remove those people from the voter rolls. And if the office finds close matches -- for example, cases in which everything matches but Social Security number -- the state asks local officials to investigate further.

The state's death records are updated anywhere from 24 hours to two months after a person's death, depending on whether electronic or paper records are used, Department of State Health Services spokesman Doug McBride said.

Candidate who lost says other voting problems loom larger

Not everyone thinks having dead voters on the rolls poses a major problem.

"Any voting irregularity is a cause for concern," said Lloyd Wayne Oliver, who lost the Democratic contest for 174th District judge in March. "Probably some people who voted for me were dead."

But the Houston criminal defense lawyer said other barriers to access, like political activists who purport to register everyone but trash registrations from those whose party philosophy doesn't match theirs, weigh heavier on the system.

Oliver said he doesn't think having dead voters on the rolls harmed his chances. Oliver lost to Ruben Guerrero, who faces Assistant District Attorney Bill Moore, a Republican, in November.

But Alexis Guidry thinks her mother would be troubled if she knew about her apparently posthumous vote.

Gloria Guidry passed away last May, but Harris County voting records indicate she cast a ballot in the March 2008 Democratic primary.

Guidry was a mother of four, grandmother of 11, and first lady, or pastor's wife, of the New Covenant Fellowship Church in Houston.

"She would be livid," daughter Alexis Guidry said.

Alexis Guidry, an English student at the University of Houston, said she would ask her father to look into the matter. Guidry said she didn't know of anyone who would have access to her mother's identifying information, and none of the four daughters share her mother's name.

(Pictured at left: Gloria Guidry.)

Record errors, people with similar names

Some of the more than 4,000 people may not be dead.

In the method Texas Watchdog used, matching first, last and middle names and dates of birth, two people with a common name born on the same day could be mixed up with each other.

Errors in the federal death records may point to dead people when they are, in fact, alive. The Social Security Administration itself says there may be errors in its death records.

In one case identified by Texas Watchdog, a poll worker's mistake may have led to a faulty record.

John Medford said there must have been a mix-up when he was told his father -– who died in 2006 –- had voted in the March Democratic primary.

They lived at the same Neff Street address. They shared their name: John Curtis Medford. But the father was born in 1917, the son in 1951.

“My mom and I voted. That’s all I know,” Medford said. But the younger Medford didn’t vote, records show.

Poll workers apparently recorded the father as showing up to the polls, not the son.

How we reported the story:

Deaths are recorded by the federal government at the Social Security Administration. We obtained the database through the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a program of the nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. The database does not include people who die without ever having a Social Security number.

We compared the federal records (1937 through June of this year) to Harris County's records of registered voters as of Sept. 1 (kept by the county tax assessor). At that point there were almost 1.9 million voters on the rolls, though more have registered since then.

We looked for people whose names -- first, last and middle -- and dates of birth matched. There were more than 2,100 cases where all fields matched exactly.

Then we added close matches.

In the case of middle names, an initial like 'J' in one database could match a middle name like 'John' in the other. We found about 700 records that were like this.

We considered a blank middle name in one database as a possible match with a completed middle name in the other. And we considered blank middle names in both databases with matches on everything else possible matches. There were more than 1,400 records that fell into these categories.

We also considered possible misspellings or typos, like a middle name of 'John' in one database and middle name of 'Jhon' in the other. There were more than 100 records like this.

Our search yielded more than 4,000 matches, or voters who may be dead. Click here to see the database.

We matched those records with voting history records (kept by the Harris County clerk) to determine whether people's names may have been used to cast ballots. We matched the 4,000 with the voting history records using identification numbers assigned by local and state officials. We examined elections since the March 2004 primary.

E-mail Lee Ann O'Neal at or call 713-366-7979. Texas Watchdog staffers Jennifer Peebles and Trent Seibert contributed to this report.

Photo at top left: Texas Watchdog photo illustration using photos by flickr users infomatique and yaquina, used via the Creative Commons license.

Check out Texas Watchdog on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Database of Harris County voters who may be deceased

Texas Watchdog's analysis found more than 4,000 matches between registered Harris County voters and Texans whose personal information appears in Social Security Administration death records, using the analysis method described above. Texas Watchdog is withholding these voters' Social Security numbers and publishing only their years of birth -- not their full dates of birth -- to prevent fraudulent use of their identities.

Tracey 1212
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 08:05AM

What you didn't show us is the percentage of democrats vs. republicans that have voted after death. This information may lead to a better understanding of how and why this was done. My guess is that many of the voting dead are democrats.

OKLA. voter
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 08:13AM

So now that you have put up the list all I have to do is pick someone close to my age, get the address and zip here go to the polls and claim to be that person. I could get a fake ID made off of the information you have posted. Why did you post it? Don't you think it might help the frauds?

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 08:30AM

I would like to know the amount that were Democrats and how many of these were Republicans. If it is equal proportion to the population of the area it is not a problem but if it is one sided then you have to look at it as fraud. In many cases it make a big difference in who wins the seat for congress. Or if it is only happens in Repulican districts then you would think fraud, or the same with Democrat districts.

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 09:22AM

After all, it is Texas is it not.

Half Truth Hater
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 09:31AM


Friday, 10/10/2008 - 09:46AM




Friday, 10/10/2008 - 10:01AM

I thought in TX it was only legal for cows to vote illegally, not dead people. Those were all supposed to be in Chicago, Obama's stomping grounds. At least that's where the dead people and cows voted for Kennedy in 1960. Some of the corpses must have decided to relocate since then.

Deanna Bender
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 10:08AM

This must happen all the time. I live in Luzerne county Pa and my great grandparents have been dead along time and they still vote. I spoke with my grandmother during the last election and she said many of her dead relatives still vote.Something has to be done, this is out of control who is voting for these people?!!

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 10:51AM

You\'re probably catching about 10%. People often move to other states after retirement and their deaths will be recorded there, not in their homestates. However their homestate registration remains until the registrar\'s office receives a notice from their new states\' registrar that they have re-registered. Sometimes no notice is sent; sometimes they don\'t re-register.

Anyone who doesn\'t think there\'s an organized, nationwide effort to vote the dead is terribly naive. Outfits like ACORN pour over the registration lists looking for dead voters they can steal votes from. They know that w/o photo ID or a national ID system they can usually get away with it. In the rare instances that their operatives are caught they deny all responsibility and claim it\'s an \"isolated\" incident.

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 11:05AM

Wow, Larry, you\'re pretty dumb. It\'s only fraud if one party benefits more than the other? Is that the definition of voter fraud>

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 12:18PM

Some may think that this story is cute or may like the fact that their particular candidate may win becuase of the fraud but I think all of you need to remember that when a single fraudulent vote is cast it reduces the constitutional rights of all of us. Just think if all of these votes were going to a white supremacist or a Adolf Hitler type. Not so funny anymore is it?

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 12:22PM

I also think that voting righs should only be granted to those that own land. Owning land or a home is a sign of economic involvement and self-support. Those on welfare and those recieving compensation from the governement i.e. taxpayers should lose their right to vote by maintaining a welfare status. Otherwise the end of this country is at hand. When the masses are dependant on the government then the masses can vote for someone that will give the wealthy's money to the poor, overturning the capitalist base of this nation and ending free-will, freedom, entrepenuership, and self responsibility. Something to consider...

ACORN Volunteer
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 12:52PM

This is typical lies from the right. People should not be removed from the voter rolls because they are poor, black, deceased, or voting democrat. We have an election to run here, people. We don't need partisan politics getting in the way of an Obama landslide and I'm making certain this doesn't happen by registering everyone in the obituary section of the newspaper and sending in representatives for them.

It affects the lives of dead people when a politician might consider rezoning a plot of land near a cemetery and these people need representation!

I sleep well at night knowing I have personally registered several hundred illegal immigrants, deceased individuals, celebrities, and other randomly generated names.

Obama 2008!

Friday, 10/10/2008 - 01:03PM







Matt Stiles
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 01:06PM

The story rightly notes the many possible records mistakes that could skew the analysis. This reporter did the same queries and realized that most of the original flagged names weren't, in fact, dead:

Just a thought.

LL in La
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 01:24PM

I can understand the controversy, Houston. But what really worries me more is the number of "brain dead" voters that are still breathing that will be at the polls this November. It's much easier to root out the plainly "dead" but when they are still ambulatory . . . wow, that's a bit more challenging . . .

Old Man in NC
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 04:49PM

To Acorn volunteer: Must agree with LL in LA -

You are certainly in the group of \"brain dead\".

I fear your type nearly as much as the Marxist idol you support.

Do not cry out in the future when his actions destroy your world, it will happen.

Matt Simpson
Friday, 10/10/2008 - 09:23PM

While sick comments like "Acorn Volunteers" don't really serve the cause of eliminating voter fraud, I think that they transmit the feeling that many people have, which is the that many Democrats see nothing wrong with doing whatever it takes to steal an election, because it is for "their cause". "Motor voter" laws have allowed illegal aliens be put on the ballot in many states. It is time for laws that require voters to show a photo ID before they can vote. There is no legitimate reason why they should not. And to obtain a driver's license you must show you have insurance, why shouldn't you be required to prove you are legally in this country? When we live in a society where various groups - either on the left or the right - skirt laws because "they don't like them" we are left with a country with no respect for law & order.

Ed Garland
Saturday, 10/11/2008 - 04:49PM

There will be more voter fraud this year than in any other election in history. I am thankful that there are investigations going on.

How many fraudulent voters are going to slip through? If it 's this bad in one city, maybe we should postpone the election until we are satisfied that all ballots are legitimate.

Saturday, 10/11/2008 - 05:52PM

I would hope that this website would stand up and actually give the number of democrat vs. republican votes that these 4000 produced. Please don't be like the mainstream media and only report part of the problem

Jimmy Hoffa
Saturday, 10/11/2008 - 09:14PM

Whtvr, you Rubeplicans are stuped. Obama doesnt need to fake voter dead registrations to make this countryh a better world for change. Democrats are the only smart people on the world, only rednecks vote rubeplican. stuped hicks cant even spell.

jason williams
Saturday, 10/11/2008 - 10:14PM

The fact that the article doesn't identify the party registration of the people behind this fraud tells me that they are probably most, if not all Democrats.

The fix is in already in Illinois, Ohio, and Penn. Now Texas as well... Who knows where else the ACORN crowd registered thousands of dead people to vote Democrat.

I'm registered Independent and I wasn't going to vote in this presidential election, but now my family and I will vote against the Democratic ticket.

Saturday, 10/11/2008 - 10:36PM

The people handing out registration forms are attempting to get people to vote, nothing else. In fact, they can't legally throw them out, even if they suspect they are fraudulent

People who fill forms out fraudulently, or people who vote in other people's names, are breaking the law. It has nothing to do with party affiliation.

We need to require photo ID to vote.

Sunday, 10/12/2008 - 04:52AM

Centrist, with your reasoning I request that you don't vote. There is nothing centrist about you. Lib to the core.

Sunday, 10/12/2008 - 06:23AM

We need verification of citizenship as well as picture ID to vote. The motor voter law doesn't mean that citizenship is verified. My state gives driver licenses to illegal aliens, and no citizenship is verified. So, they have picture ID but are not citizens and should not be allowed to vote. An illegal was deported earlier this year and had a valid voter registration card. It is not just dead people that we have problems with. Voting is one of the most basic fundamental rights of Citizens!!!

Wednesday, 10/15/2008 - 02:27PM

Show of hands: does anyone actually believe \"ACORN Volunteer\", FLOSSIE or FLEUR actually support Obama? I don't for a second. They are very obviously republican plants pretending to be democrats, having fun with a little sock puppetry.

Monday, 10/20/2008 - 01:06PM

What do you expect when the zionist jews run your country.

Jennifer Peebles
Monday, 10/20/2008 - 06:19PM


Dude, look, we believe in the First Amendment here and giving everyone a chance to be heard, but on behalf of Texas Watchdog, I just want to say that what you just said (and the sentiment behind it) is absolutely horrible.

Wednesday, 10/22/2008 - 02:56PM

Dead people shouldn't vote and live folks who go to the trouble of registering should. The piece doesn't come right out and say it but it implies that somehow Acorn has a hand in the names of the dead apperaing on the Harris County registration rolls yet I note that the datebase lists the names of persons who "may" be deceased. Personally I am more concerned about the reports of irregularities with the machines used by the County and how long it takes for certian Precincts in the northern part of the County to deliver their vote tally chips.

Wednesday, 10/22/2008 - 06:01PM

I can not believe the ignorance I am reading. Dead people on the voter rolls does not mean they are voting. Every two years every one in Texas on the rolls get a new voter ID card. The Post Office must return (to the county election office) them for anyone no longer at that address.; the voter is marked suspended and must provide additional ID at the polls. Additionally, all first time voters are must proved additional ID at the polls.

I have worked elections since 1985 and see this and am convinced that this is just another emotional ploy by a party with no solutions to the real problems facing our nation.

Thursday, 10/23/2008 - 10:56AM

If I could show up with just a paycheck stub to vote... (I know my voter registration card is not necessary) we easily have the technology and printing capability to make a check stub... there is nothing official about that... or log on and print off a utility bill... how would they know I was the person voting. The picture ID should be required of all voters.

Nancy Kessling
Thursday, 10/23/2008 - 01:42PM

I sent a comment in earlier that is listed on your webpage "Nancy Kessling" but cannot be pulled up?

Jay Redd
Thursday, 10/23/2008 - 11:40PM

This is a funny halloween tshirt. It\'s a zombie and it says \"Acorn registered voter #11564\". It\'s really funny.

Sunday, 11/02/2008 - 12:07AM

I can give you another deceased name. It is Melody Erickson and she lived at 6022 Beechnut. Although I never got to meet her, because I was placed for adoption, I spent years trying to find her and found her name in SSDI. Then, started looking through Harris county public records and found her in the voter database. Wish I had started looking years earlier................she was my sister

Sunday, 11/02/2008 - 10:18PM

If Obama wins, I hope that every single vote in every state is verified even if it takes four years. I agree that only property owners paying taxes should have the right to vote. Anyone sponging off of the system does not deserve a vote.

Monday, 11/03/2008 - 07:25AM

I don't necessarily agree that only property owners should have the right to vote, but I do agree that anyone on welfare for anything other than serious, verifiable disability should have their voting rights suspended until they are no longer requiring the government to provide for their upkeep. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a lazy person on welfare (regardless of color, creed, or whatever other differentiation is du jour) is going to vote for whoever will allow them to keep sucking at the public teat.

Delia Maldonado
Monday, 11/03/2008 - 01:10PM

An investigation should also be conducted in Hidalgo County because ower dead vote and so do Mexicans from our south vote in our electons. Yet I was denied the right to vote and so did a lot of other people that I'm aware of, and I'm and American. This issue was brought to the attention of Hope Andrade in Austin but nothing ever happens it gets sweep under the rug.

Monday, 11/17/2008 - 07:47PM

@jason williams

There's no registration by party in Texas so they're not leaving that info out, it just doesn't exist.

Ken Schuffler
Thursday, 11/20/2008 - 03:22PM



The right wing in our country has been very busy destroying our constitutional rights

and security for years. They started with the 'Drug War', probably the greatest propaganda exercise of all time that's eaten the constitutional rights steadily

of every citizen since Nixon invented it years ago. Bush's 'War on Terror', that

has actually turned our nation into the number one terrorist, criminal country

on earth and resulted in genocide in the middle east, torture and the further

relinquishing of our constitutional/ human rights adds to their desire to confuse

the crowd or 'manufacture consent' to take the words from Walter Lippman.

If you want to protect yourself and your future, READ BETWEEN THE LINES


OR, follow along like a bunch of imbicile racist fools against the devil black

president and ruin yourselves and your children.

I'm going to rejoice in his victory and hope for the best.

Thursday, 05/31/2012 - 08:41AM

Yea, clean those dead people off. You guys have Eric Holder running wild. lol