With the heavy increase in early voting, a curious question arises: what happens when an individual casts a ballot and then dies before election day? Well, the answer may surprise you and differs state to state.

The National Conference of State Legislatures took some time to provide an in-depth answer to this question in Wendy Underhill’s “What if an absentee voter dies before election day?

NCSL found that 11 states explicitly allow a deceased voters ballot to count: Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

In Massachusetts, the clownish state that this publication calls home, an “absentee or early ballot of any voter who was eligible to vote at the time the ballot was cast shall not be deemed invalid solely because the voter became ineligible to vote by reason by death after casting the ballot.”

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In contrast, 16 states have made clear that votes coming from the recently deceased shall be ruled invalid: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

As for the rest of the states? Well, they haven’t made any explicit determinations on that matter. But that doesn’t really mean much either.

These laws don’t translate well to reality in either case. Once a ballot is processed, or as Underhill says, “been verified and the ballot is removed from the envelope,” it becomes rather impossible to trace a ballot back to the voter it came from.

In numerous states, which allow processing to begin as early as the ballot is received in some cases, this means that the law is effectively irrelevant.