Investigation uncovers errors in Shelby County voter registration rolls - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Investigation uncovers errors in Shelby County voter registration rolls

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It's not possible for a person over 150-years-old to vote, but the Shelby County Election voter registration rolls show someone may have.  It's a mistake the Action News 5 Investigators uncovered.

Just by taking a quick look at Shelby County's voter database, you can see something's wrong.  Voter after voter is listed with birth dates dating back to the 1800's.

One voter in the database, Gilbert Dela Garza, is listed as being born in 1901.  According to the database, she registered to vote 94 years later, in 1995.

Dela Garza wasn't home Monday, but Evelyn Kelley, who lives nearby, said her neighbor was far younger than 107-years-old.

"I would say they're probably in their early 40's or middle 40's, something like that, because they had young children," Kelley said.

Action News 5 showed Shelby County Election Commission Chair Myra Stiles the data.

"There were errors made certainly in the processing of the forms," Stiles said. "As I mentioned, we had 130,000 forms to process in the course of a year. We were using a lot of temporary people."

2008 was obviously a busy election year, but the majority of the old birth dates have been in the system for a long time.

"Why have they been in the database this many years with such inaccurate birth dates?" Action New 5's Lori Brown asked.

"I don't know how many years you're talking about," Stiles said. "I do know clerical errors can happen any time."

The data base shows errors apparently happened consistently over the years.  For example, one person is listed as registering in 1992, with a birth date in 1831.  Another, with a listed a birth date in 1851, registered in 1986.

Stiles said the Election Commission is working to address the problem, adding that the accuracy of birth dates is important to prevent problems like what happened in 2005, when Memphis poll workers used the identities of dead voters to cast ballots in the tight race.

Stiles said the number of voters with birth dates in the 1800's is now down to about 45.

Click here to send an email to Lori Brown.

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