Dead voter who was sent a ballot is purged from Miami-Dade elections roll

06/27/2013 11:59 AM

06/27/2013 12:09 PM

The Miami-Dade Elections Department has purged from its voter roll the name of a woman who died in 2010 but was recently sent a ballot to vote in a special referendum in Miami Lakes.

After learning on Tuesday about the ballot sent to Belén Alvarez Vásquez, county officials contacted the state’s Division of Elections, which is responsible for comparing names on the statewide voter database with deaths reported to the state’s Health Department.

The Division of Elections hadn’t previously found Alvarez Vasquez’s name in the Health Department’s death records because of a mismatch in how her last name was recorded by the agencies. The voter rolls used both of her last names while the Health Department only used the last name “Vasquez,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Elections.

“The death match criteria requires at a minimum that the last name be an exact match,” Cate said. “When we got word about the issue about this particular voter, the division acted quickly to verify with the Department of Health to determine what might have happened through communications outside of the automated match process.”

After confirming that Alvarez Vasquez was, in fact, dead, the state notified Miami-Dade officials who removed the voter from the rolls on Tuesday night.

For the Miami Lakes referendum, all 17,504 registered voters in the city were sent a ballot, regardless of how long ago they had last voted. County election spokeswoman Carolina Lopez said that this is not a case of fraudulently requested absentee ballots.

“Even if somebody had wanted to do something that isn’t kosher with that ballot, the Elections Department has safeguards in place to address potential fraud,” she said.

Elections officials compare the signature on each ballot with the signatures on file. All questionable signatures are reviewed by multiple supervisors, and the county’s Canvassing Board makes the final call before ballots are counted.

Alvarez Vasquez’s family wasn’t the only one that complained after receiving a ballot for somebody who no longer lives at a Miami Lakes address.

Maria Kramer said the Elections Department sent a ballot for a voter named Justin Wayne Pfaff, who she doesn’t even know.

Kramer bought her house in 1994. Records show that Pfaff had registered to vote at that address five years earlier, and had only voted in the 1990 general elections. He has been living in Georgia for the past two decades.

“That’s a little strange that they sent me a ballot in Miami when I’m registered to vote in Atlanta,” Pfaff said in a phone interview Thursday.

After receiving Pfaff’s ballot, Kramer said she wrote on the envelope that he does not live at that address and mailed it back to the County. It wasn’t the first time she had done this. In July 2012, when the Elections Department sent Pfaff a new voter identification card to Kramer’s address, she sent back the envelope with a note about the wrong address.

“I don’t understand why they’d keep somebody on their voter roll for so many years when he clearly doesn’t live here,” Kramer said.

Lopez said that the county can only purge a voter from its roll when that person has died, when the voter himself confirms he no longer wants to be a registered voter, or when mail to that person has been returned to the Elections Department on several occasions.

In Pfaff’s case, the Elections Department had sent two letters to the Miami Lakes address to confirm whether he still lived there or not after receiving Kramer’s note last July. Both were sent back to the department.

As a result, Pfaff is now considered an “inactive” voter but will remain on the rolls through two more general elections, meaning through 2016, Lopez said.

That is unless Pfaff himself communicates to the Elections Department that he no longer wants to be a registered voter in Miami-Dade. He said that is something he plans to do.

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