When Kim Hertz received a voter registration card for her stepfather in the mail in June she was baffled.
“I couldn’t believe we got something for him because, first off, he never lived here,” said Hertz.
According to voter records, her stepfather Richard Cerasoli's voter registration address was changed in August 2013.
But there was something else wrong.
“My stepdad actually passed away in 2010. So if he is deceased how come the counties don’t have records of deceased people and why are they sending out voter registration cards to these people?”
Kim’s husband Allen contacted the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office shortly after receiving the card in the mail.
"When he called and explained the situation to them and they said we’ll look into it, they never called back, never followed up on anything," Kim Hertz said. "And then a couple of weeks later we get an official sample ballot in the mail for him on top of it."
It made Kim and her husband very concerned.
Hertz said, "Don’t laugh at me but there was a movie that we had seen a long time ago called Black Sheep and in there it was voter fraud for people with absentee ballots that have been deceased.”
Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, says the problem is at the state level.
"In the state of Florida, the central voter file responsibility lies with the secretary of state in the Division of Elections."
Bucher says that when the department receives information from the Bureau of Vital Statistics or the Social Security Administration showing someone has died, they then match that information against a state database. Once the death is verified, the voter record is suspend down to the supervisors of elections.
Once supervisors receive the suspension, "we take a look at it and if everything matches then we remove that voter”, Bucher said.
“Their information is not always current and accurate but the secretary of state is responsible for maintaining that statewide voter file and they have contracts with vital statistics and social security”
Following our reporting, the supervisor and WPTV contacted the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections.
Records show that Cerasoli has not voted since 2008 and Bucher is not worried about others voting on behalf of deceased people who still appear on the voter rolls.
“The chance of that happening is almost nil. Because Florida’s voter ID laws require that you have to present yourself with a picture signature ID. You would have to look like the person and you would have to sign like that person,” Bucher said.
She added, “You are more likely to be bitten by a shark in your own pool than having somebody present themselves as somebody else.”
For voting by mail there are other safeguards in place, Bucher said.
“It is required that each person voting by mail present the ballot in this envelope. If it is not in this envelope we can’t receive it. We can’t count it. And you are required to sign the outside of the envelope. So then what we will do is we’ll compare the signature that we have on file to the signature on your absentee ballot and we look at every single one of the signatures.”
If the signature on the outside of the ballot doesn’t exactly match, it goes to the canvassing board that consists of two judges and a county commissioner. They would look at all the characteristics of the signature on file and on the ballot. If they don’t match the ballot will not be opened and not be counted.
Kim Hertz says she just wants fair elections but there are other things that concern her about what happened.
“It’s not even for voter fraud, it’s identity theft, it’s anything. That’s the thing that bothers me the most about it,” she said.
And she’s still confused as to how her stepdad’s voter address was changed to hers.
“The man never lived here. The only way I think they got this address is that my mom lived here.”
“What happens is if there’s a forwarding address the post office provides us a yellow strip and provides us a forwarding address”, said Bucher.
In August 2013 the Borward County Supervisor of Elections sent mail to the Pembroke Pines address where Cerasoli used to reside, but because he was not living there anymore the mail was undeliverable and USPS provided the forwarding address, which is the address in Boca Raton.
When notified (by USPS) of the address change the Supervisor’s Office is required by law to update the address.
And that’s what happened to Dick Cerasoli, whose wife lived with Kim and her husband in Boca Raton before she passed away in 2012.
Voting on behalf of a deceased person is a third degree felony. There are no cases of this happening in Florida that Bucher knows of.
We reached out to the state’s division of elections and the vital statistics bureau, who are currently reviewing the issue.
When we hear back we will let you know what happened
When you receive mail from the supervisor of elections office for someone who does not live at your address you can send it back to the supervisor of elections office, where they go through the returned mail.
If your signature has changed over the years make sure you update it with the supervisor of elections office.
If you have received a voter registration card or sample ballot for someone who has died, we would like to hear from you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org