Small Sample of Philly Voter Rolls Reveals Hundreds of Ineligible Names

The city of Philadelphia is known for many things: The Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks, water ice, and Santa Claus-booing Eagles fans. But if research that I conducted in 2006 is still accurate today, Philadelphia should also be known for all-inclusive voting -- that is, voting regardless of whether one has a pulse or is otherwise eligible to cast a vote.

Every two years, states are required to provide data to the Election Assistance Commission regarding their compliance with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (the section of that statute which ensures voter lists are up-to-date and free of ineligible voters). In 2005, their data collection for Pennsylvania revealed that 102.5% of the citizen voting age population was registered to vote on Election Day 2004.

One might reasonably wonder how it was possible that more people were registered to vote than existed. My 2006 analysis of the city of Philadelphia’s voter list provided some possible answers to that question.

In the spring of 2006, I reviewed portions of the city of Philadelphia’s 2005 voting list. I found that underaged voters, deceased voters, and incarcerated felons were registered to vote and had remained on the voting list, despite the fact that none of them were eligible to vote in Pennsylvania (or, in most cases, anywhere else).

In Pennsylvania, a voter must be 18 or older as of the date of the election to be eligible to vote. Yet at least 130 voters on the list were under the age of 18. Thirty-four of whom had a birth year of 2004 -- the year of the election. And 215 voters on the list had a birthdate of: “00-00-00.”

Just looking at the years of birth for the registered voters, I found 54 voters listed with years of birth ranging from 1825 – 1899. While it is possible that a voter born in 1899 could still be alive in 2004 (he or she would be 105), it is clearly impossible that someone born in 1825 would.

Digging a little bit deeper, I was able to find confirmed deceased voters still on the list. I took a sample of 385 registrants born between the years 1900 and 1905, and found that 51 (thirteen percent!) were in fact dead, according to the Social Security Death Index.