Under the Dome

'112-year-old voters' a result of change in data collection, not voter fraud

Since early voting started last week in North Carolina, data from the state Board of Elections shows 899 ballots cast by 112-year-old voters.

Either a surprising number of people who could have chosen between Calvin Coolidge, John Davis and Robert La Follette in 1924 remain alive and politically-engaged, or something else is going on. 

A local conservative political blog was the first to suggest that “massive voter fraud” was taking place, and a bandwagon of similar claims have followed. The Examiner, a conservative website, posted a story that has been shared by several thousand people on Facebook and Twitter.

State elections director Gary Bartlett said the story spread quickly enough on social media that his phone started ringing during church Sunday and hasn't let up since – and a glance at the widely-circulated story shows why:

"Of these voters, over 70 percent were slated as Democrats, with a diminutive 25 percent counted as Republicans…Obviously there is a problem, one in which voter ID might clearly provide a solution. A thing that only the Democratic Party swears against."

Just one problem: "It's not voter fraud at all," Bartlett said.

Debate over proposed voter ID laws have lingered throughout the election cycle, but the centenarian voters are in fact a result of a change in information collected by the state when people register to vote, Bartlett said.

He said that until the 1980s only age was collected when people registered to vote – not necessarily their date of birth – so a default of Jan. 1, 1900, was used for those who had not provided a birthdate.

In 2008, 9,856 votes were cast by people who were “108.” In 2010, 9,194 people who were “110” cast ballots. There have been 899 votes by people aged "112" so far this year.

“These people have been registered for a long time,” Bartlett said. “Twice now, we’ve cross-checked these people with drivers licenses, but if we can’t find an exact match, we don’t change anything because we don’t want to put out false information."

While the votes do heavily favor Democrats, that has been the case so far in early voting, whether faux-elderly or any other age.

Overall, 50.8 percent who have voted are registered Democrats, 30.6 percent Republicans and 18.4 percent unaffiliated; the faux-elderly are voting 70.2 percent Democrats, 25.5 percent Republicans and 4.3 percent unaffiliated.

Update: People born in 1900 would have first voted in 1924, as the voting age was not lowered to 18 until the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1971 (h/t @nullum_tempus)

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