Voters across the country are receiving mail-in ballot applications that contain inaccurate and potentially misleading information, election officials say.
The Center for Voter Information (CVI) and its affiliate the Voter Participation Center, both based in Washington, are sending the applications to voters in 20 states.
The groups were founded by Page Gardner, who has worked on multiple Democrat campaigns. The group says it is nonpartisan but was founded with the help of John Podesta, President Bill Clintons former chief of staff, according to documents obtained by watchdog Judicial Watch.
Voters in multiple Virginia jurisdictions recently received vote-by-mail applications from the Center for Voter Information with a reply envelope addressed to the incorrect registrars office, the state Board of Elections said this week.
Fairfax County election officials warned voters about the “inaccurate, potentially misleading mailing,” emphasizing the mailing was not from the county.
Dave Bjerke, director of elections for the City of Falls Church, tagged CVI on Twitter, writing, “Its not helpful to mail absentee by-mail apps en mass without checking with election offices who process them.”
“It is not election day but it feels like it by the number of calls Ive received from concerned citizens,” he added.
CVI said that approximately 500,000 applications sent to voters in Virginia “included incorrect information.”
We are alerting voters about this inaccurate, potentially misleading mailing from the Center for Voter Information. Fairfax County did NOT send it. Learn more, including the most secure way to apply to #votebymail: https://t.co/NsA2oN35B2 pic.twitter.com/XPZSBT7zWj
— Fairfax County Votes (@fairfaxvotes) August 6, 2020
“We know that voters are on high alert as the November election approaches, and we regret adding to any confusion,” it said in a statement.
The center also released a statement from Jonathan Shapiro, president and CEO of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, the printer the center uses.
Acknowledging a “major error” happened during the printing, Shapiro said the incorrect information was printed because workers failed to properly align a spreadsheet that matched voters with their local election office.
“We are keenly aware of the seriousness of this mistake. We added to the burden already felt by local election boards and made their jobs significantly harder. Worse, this error created confusion for voters who are trying to exercise their right to vote from home, safely and conveniently,” he said, adding later, “We have analyzed the root cause of this error and are taking steps to ensure that nothing like this can happen in future mailings.”
But its not the first time Center for Voter Information mailings have contained inaccurate information or details that violate the law.
Some 80,000 North Carolina voters received mail-in ballot applications with information already filled out on the forms, a violation of state law, the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced in June.
County boards of elections that receive an invalid absentee request form will send a letter to the voter informing them of the issue, the board said. The letter will include a blank request form for the voter to return.
Third-party groups are legally allowed to send mail-in ballot applications. The efforts “can be confusing or frustrating for voters and erode confidence in elections, especially when they are unsolicited,” the state board said in a press release.
“The state and county boards of elections encourage third-party groups to consider the overwhelming toll that misleading or confusing mailings and other outreach efforts take on elections resources and the damage they cause to voters confidence in elections,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, said in a statement. “We need our elections officials to be focused on serving more than 7 million voters during a pandemic.”
The center in a statement blamed election officials and state lawmakers.
“As a convenience, CVI had filled out the names and addresses of the 80,000 North Carolina residents, as is common and legal in most states. However, the new state law in North Carolina is poorly worded,” the group said.
“CVI believed that it was complying with the new law, and had received written assurances from the state regarding its mailing.”
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