Elections

No, a dead man didn’t vote. Broward mixed his ID with his son’s, state says.

Protesters show up outside Broward County elections office

Protesters showed up outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, singing and chanting "stop the steal" on Nov. 9, 2018. Some held signs and demanded that Brenda Snipes be indicted.
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Protesters showed up outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, singing and chanting "stop the steal" on Nov. 9, 2018. Some held signs and demanded that Brenda Snipes be indicted.

Somehow, Paul Padova had risen from the dead.

That was the rumor circulating online on YouTube and the forum 4chan, where users were searching voting records for birth dates indicating extremely old voters, then cross-referencing the names with the Social Security Death Index to see if they could find instances of ballots cast in a dead person’s name.

The Hollywood, Florida, man died in 2005, records show, and Broward County’s voter lookup said he voted this year.

But the deceased Padova hadn’t voted. It was actually his son, also named Paul Padova and registered at his father’s same Hollywood address, who mailed in absentee ballots in the 2016 presidential primary and the 2018 primary and general elections.

“I swear to God it could only happen to me,” said the younger Padova, 72, after learning the county accidentally logged his votes under his father’s voter ID number.

Under state law, the Division of Elections compares registered voters with death information compiled by the state Department of Health and the U.S. Social Security Administration, notifying counties of matches for them to remove, said Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Elections.

In January 2010, the state notified the Broward Supervisor of Elections office that the elder Padova had died. But Broward deemed the state match invalid, saying a third item aside from name and date of birth was needed to match the identities, Revell said.

Fred Bellis, Broward’s elections operations coordinator, said via text that staff would need to check and verify the state’s information when the office reopens Monday.

Under Florida law, only a supervisor of elections can remove a voter from the rolls. The supervisor is supposed to remove a deceased voter within seven days of receiving a copy of a death certificate. All 67 counties must periodically update voter rolls, state law says, though they must finish the process at least 90 days before an election.

Brenda Snipes, who has served as the head of Broward’s elections since 2003, recently submitted her letter of resignation following intense scrutiny during the 2018 general election. In the near two weeks between Election Day and the end of a statewide recount, her office misplaced 2,000 ballots, mixed about two dozen invalid ballots with about 200 good ones and blew the deadline to submit machine recount results to the state by two minutes.

The younger Padova isn’t the only Florida voter who’s dealt with an incorrect voter roll. Gov. Rick Scott was shocked to hear he was dead — according to voter rolls — when he tried to cast an early vote ballot in 2006.

“They didn’t ask me the next time I voted,” Scott told the Herald in 2012. “So I guess I’m not dead any longer.”

The Miami Herald reached out to the state after a reader emailed a reporter about the 4chan post. Revell said following that inquiry, the state reached out to Broward County and the elder Padova has been removed from the rolls and the son’s voting history is being updated. As of Tuesday, this information was corrected on Broward’s website.

It’s far from the first time Padova’s name and his father’s have been mixed up, he said. He started adding his middle initial, J., to some documents after his credit card company got confused as well.

Padova said he’s glad the county is fixing the mistake but that mishaps such as these give rise to conspiracy theories.

“They gotta keep up on this,” he said of the voter roll.

It is rare to see fraudulent votes cast on behalf of dead people. The most recent instance in Florida was Miami’s 1997 mayoral election; a state grand jury found absentee ballots cast in the names of dead people, among other findings, and a judge voided the election results.

In Miami-Dade County in 2016, a woman was accused of submitting voter-registration forms, not votes, for several people who don’t exist and several others who were dead.

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