The Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information have been contacting Florida residents in recent weeks in an effort to register voters for the election.
However, many people in Palm Beach and Broward counties have called their supervisors of elections, out of confusion over the mailings which carry a “DO NOT DISCARD” warning.
“Some are very angry, some are sad because it was sent to a recently deceased spouse, and all are confused as to why they got it,” Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link told the Sun Sentinel.
At one point last month, about 80 percent of the calls her office was getting were about the mailers.
The groups announced last month that they intended to “connect with over 3 million Floridians by mail as part of the groups’ largest ever campaign to encourage eligible residents to register to vote” as part of a nationwide effort to mail 12 million voter registration applications to people in 20 states.
Additionally, the two groups said they were targeting “historically disenfranchised Americans,” including minority voters, unmarried woman and young people, and that the mail-based efforts were even more necessary during the stay-at-home lockdowns.
The envelopes have a Tallahassee return address, which Steve Vancore, spokeswoman for Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci, says gives the notion of an official mailing.
The outside of the mailing reads, “SECOND NOTICE” in red.
Antonacci, in a statement, says the mailers are pre-completed with a prospective voter’s information, and that they sometimes go to people who are already registered or to family members of deceased people. That subsequently “erodes the public’s faith in the good voter registration work already occurring around Florida, and even undermines democracy itself.”
We have already generated 600,000 voter registration applications—that’s 6x where we were at this point in 2016. Take a bow! Or better yet, make sure you’re registered: https://t.co/zzlrRHIPlL (2/2)
— Voter Participation Center (@VoterCenter) May 14, 2020
“Each time these deceptive mailers are sent, our office is inundated with terrified voters who are concerned that their personal information has been compromised and are wrongly shared and they are especially upset when — as it happens all too frequently — the data used by this shadow group is wrong and thereby causes further alarm,” Antonacci adds.
Last month, Antonacci, Link and the supervisors of elections from 33 other counties said in a letter to Secretary of State Laurel Lee that the mailings cause “confusion, disruption and fear among voters in our state.” They said they felt compelled to highlight the “scam mailers periodically hectoring Floridians.”
“These mailers not only unnecessarily frighten voters (seniors in particular) but are counter-productive to ongoing voter registration and vote-by-mail efforts being undertaken by Supervisors of Elections, the political parties and other regulated, legitimate groups,” the supervisors’ letter said.
The two organizations involved in the mailings describe their efforts as “the nation’s largest and most rigorously researched mail-based voter registration and turnout program.”
In an emailed response, the Voter Participation Center’s founder and board chairwoman Page Gardner said that especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic “mail-based voter registration efforts have never been more important. VPC and CVI run the nation’s largest mail-based voter registration program, and our work is crucial today. We are significantly increasing our efforts during the coronavirus crisis.”
In a statement, the centers said that in the past “some Florida election officials have mischaracterized VPC’s successful mail programs, claiming that the non-profit’s official voter registration applications raise some questions and lead to some confusion. VPC’s programs in Florida have been incredibly successful.”
They also say the mailings “provide transparency” by including a statement that people who have recently updated their voter registrations or are ineligible to vote should disregard the notice, that people can check their registration status online, and that the mailing originates from a group “that is not affiliated with state or local election officials.”
However, the last statement appears in smaller type at the bottom page of the material inside the envelope.