The “cemetery vote” refers to a form of voter fraud, in which votes are cast in the names of registered voters who have, in fact, passed away. The term is also sometimes used when a vote is improperly cast by someone who no longer lives in the electoral district.
It’s related to “ballot box stuffing.”
In 2016, a CBS investigation found that there had been “multiple cases” of votes being cast by dead men and women in Denver, Colorado. The votes were cast months, or years, after the actual voters passed away.
In one instance, CBS found that ballots had been cast in the name of a woman named Sara Sosa in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. However, Sosa had died in October of 2009. Her husband, Miguel, died in 2008 but a vote was cast in his name in 2009.
Chicago has its own, storied history of voter fraud, and the Chicago Tribune ran a cheery editorial after CBS unearthed fraud in Colorado:
As Chicagoans, we have one thing to say: amateurs. The Denver investigation turned up only four confirmed cases of corpses actually casting ballots. And the whole scandal seems to be the work of a few hapless freelancers — presumably, someone getting hold of a ballot mailed to the home of the deceased and deciding not to waste it.
After all, the famous, cheeky order to “vote early and vote often” is closely linked to Chicago. Historians are not sure who, exactly, first uttered the phrase, but it’s always attributed to a Chicagoan. It’s thought that it was either the famous gangster, Al Capone; Richard Daley, mayor from 1955 to 1976; or William Hale Thompson, who was mayor from 1915-1923 and from 1931-1935
In mid-century Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley was rumored to regularly engineer voter fraud so that his Democratic allies kept on winning. Many people said that Daley was also behind the 1960 victory of John F Kennedy; Daley supposedly “stole” the presidency for JFK by making sure that the Chicago vote went his way. That account has been disputed, but it’s still a popular and widely-believed story.
More recent reporting, though, indicates that cemetery votes are still being used in Chicago. A 2016 investigation by CBS2 found that over the course of the previous decade, 199 dead people had “voted” a total of 229 times.
A Board of Elections spokesman downplayed the investigation, dismissing the votes as accidents or as irrelevant mistakes. “This is not the bad old days,” Jim Allen told CBS. “There are just a few instances here where a father came in for a son, or a neighbor was given the wrong ballot application and signed it.” Allen argued that a number of the “fraudulent” votes were simple clerical errors.
The CBS investigation found that 60,000 voters had not been purged from the city’s voting rolls. In several cases, relatives of people who had passed away complained that they had repeatedly notified officials of their family members’ deaths – only to find out later that their family members had “voted” several times after death.