Let me be very clear – Moore Hollow is a complete work of fiction. It takes place in a town I made up, Jenkinsville, which is the county seat of the equally imaginary Vandalia County. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little truth tucked away in there.
There are stories – rumors, in most instances – around elections in which people say that the dead continue to vote. It’s so pervasive that it led one small investigator to proclaim:
Oh my God! The dead have risen and are voting Republican.
Seriously, the problem arises because voter rolls don’t get purged very often, or very well, resulting in people who have died remaining eligible to vote (in a very hyper technical ignore the stink of rotting flesh kind of way). A Pew study in 2012 found that as many as 1.8 million dead people were still on the voter rolls. Still, there’s a pretty good gap between dead people still on the rolls and dead people actually voting.
In the wake of the 2012 election lots of officials in South Carolina asserted that hundreds of dead people had voted, an assertion made mostly in the context of the GOP push for stricter voter ID laws. More than 900, they said. As one lawmaker quipped:
We must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting.
Only, as with most things involving voting, the truth was much less sensational. The 953 votes found to have been cast by the (un?)dead weren’t cast in 2012, but in 74 separate elections over the course of seven years. In fact, the dead voters could be traced to a much more mundane explanation:
The report confirms what the State Election Commission had found after preliminarily examining some of the allegations: The so-called votes by dead people were the result of clerical errors or mistaken identities.
For instance, sometimes a son had the same name as a deceased father, and poll workers mixed up a dead father with a living son. (This happened 92 times in the initial probe, and then further investigation found seven more examples.)
That being said, examples of dead people voting pop up every now and then, as this article relates. In one instance in Tennessee, two dead people voted in an election decided by 20 votes. Still, there’s little evidence that it’s a problem that either determines elections or is part of a ploy used by the unscrupulous to win elections.
Which is where Moore Hollow comes in. West Virginia, southern West Virginia in particular, has seen its share of electoral fraud over the years. I even remember people joking about the dead continuing to vote (“early and often,” as they say) long after they shuffled off their mortal coil.
So it was natural to take the two strands and use them to create Thomas Owen Gallagher, aka King Tommy, aka The Cheat. King Tommy was the kind of politician who would do anything to win. Would he resort to voodoo, to strange instructions in a foreign book, to raise the dead and order them to vote for him? Of course he was! It’s what happened after that’s the crux of Moore Hollow, as Ben Potter returns to his great grandfather’s old stomping grounds to root out the truth. But what to do with it once he knows it?