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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Dead? Vote in WV, Land of Immortality

Posted by kinchendavid on July 17, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Hinton, WV  – Sometimes I think that living in West Virginia – I’ve been here 14 years now – is like being an inhabitant of a parallel universe.
Take the issue of dead voters. Please. The Secretary of State’s office –still reeling from problems with electronic voting courtesy of ES&S, Omaha, Nebraska – now tells us that about 6,000 dead people may be on the rolls of voters. They’re not sure, because the voters are dead. Sounds like my home state of Illinois, famous for votes coming from Chicago area cemeteries just in the nick of time.
Secretary of State Betty Ireland’s office is working with the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics in an effort to purge the names of dead voters from the rolls. The lack of a centralized list in the past has resulted in dead people being on the voting rolls, her office says. Goes to prove something I’ve known all along: Government departments don’t share information very well. BVS: Talk to Betty: she’s a nice lady!
Funny: Every time I vote, some nice older lady (they always seem to be older than me and that’s saying a lot) asks me for my name. She – it’s always a she – checks my name and makes a little mark on the list. Only then do I get my ballot.
I wonder how all those Phantoms of West Virginia manage this trick? This is not a gigantic nation state, like California, where I lived for 16 years. We have fewer people in the entire state (about 1.8 million) than my former section of Los Angeles – the San Fernando Valley – has in its about 200 square miles. Shouldn’t be much of a task to determine who’s quick and who’s dead.
Ben Beakes, Ireland’s chief of staff, says that not all of the dead voters are making their way to the polls: “We are seeing an occasional deceased voter that has voted” is his cryptic comment quoted in a story on dead voters in the Register-Herald on Sunday, June 11, 2006. Considering that of the state’s 1,130,000 registered voters (dead and alive) only 292,334 voted in the May 9 primary election – for a miserable 25.87% turnout – maybe we ought to leave all those dead voters alone. We need all the voters – dead or alive – we can get.
Being a book reviewer and all, this brought to mind one of my favorite titles: “Only The Dead Know Brooklyn” by crime writer Thomas Boyle. Maybe Boyle – a writer who deserves more attention, by the way — ought to dispatch his NYPD homicide detective character Frank DeSales to West Virginia – kind of like a reverse “Coogan’s Bluff,” where the cop from Arizona (Clint Eastwood) comes to New York City to extradite a wanted man. Boyle could write a book about it: “Only The Dead Know West Virginia.”
After that maybe we could send DeSales to Omaha and find out what’s wrong with ES&S.

(Originally published June 12, 2006)


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