Vermont town unknowingly elects dead man

Reuters / Fred Prouser
Voters in a Vermont town elected a dead man to the local council, not realizing he had passed away the day before. Town officials said state campaign laws prohibited them from informing the public about the death.

Kevin Tarrant, 55, collapsed at his home on Monday morning and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He had been running for the Select Board of Underhill, a town of 3,000 residents 15 miles east of Burlington.

Officials didn’t announce the death at the annual town meeting, since it was held in the same school as the board vote. According to Burlington Free Press, the town clerk said that campaigning or discussing candidates within a polling place is prohibited by state law. As a result, the following day Tarrant was elected to a three-year term by 371 votes. The write-in candidate tallied 135.

Another Vermont law is complicating the process of filling the vacancy. The remaining board members are forbidden to discuss appointments or interview candidates in private, and can only do so in an open, previously announced public meeting. Holding a special election would require a resident to start a petition and collect 120 signatures.

Tarrant had served in the US Air Force and the Texas National Guard, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2010 and settling in Underhill with his family. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is not the first time US voters elected someone who was dead. During the 2000 Senate election in Missouri, Governor Mel Carnahan outpolled the incumbent John Ashcroft by almost 50,000 votes - after dying in an airplane crash two weeks earlier. State election laws prevented Carnahan’s name from being removed from the ballot, but the public knew of his death and elected him anyway.