(Liberty Bell) – According to a non-profit group, over half a million incorrect applications for absentee ballots were mistakenly sent out across Virginia this week.
The ballots were sent, among others, to dead voters, estranged relatives, and even a pet!
Just the News says that these rampant errors are “an unprecedented mailing flub that has heightened concerns about the integrity of expanding mail-in voting efforts.”
The mistakes raised alarms with recipients as diverse as election monitors, members of the League of Women Voters and a retired FBI agent. The Center for Voter Information, the nonprofit group that sent the mailers with pre-filled absentee ballots, is now apologizing.
The Center for Voter Information said the absentee application mailings were sent to “eligible voters” in the state and “some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes” for the absentee applications to the wrong election offices.
They note that counties impacted by the inaccurate mailings included Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Franklin City, Franklin County, Richmond City, Richmond County, Roanoke City, and Roanoke County.
“Approximately half a million applications sent to eligible voters in Virginia included incorrect information, and we are working diligently to address the issues. Mistakes in our programming are very rare, but we take them seriously, and our methods overall are extraordinarily effective,” the center explained in a statement.
“We know that voters are on high alert as the November election approaches, and we regret adding to any confusion. Please rest assured that we are working with local election officials in Virginia to re-direct the vote-by-mail applications to the proper locations, and will rectify any errors at our own expense,” the group noted.
The printing mistake, according to president and CEO of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, Jonathan Shapiro, “occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office.”
He explained that the error “created confusion for voters who are trying to exercise their right to vote from home, safely and conveniently.”
Local WTOP reported that the League of Women Voters said some of their members had received mailings with incorrect names on the ballot applications contained within.
“One person stated that a dead person received one and a pet received one,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters in Virginia, according to the outlet.
Another local news outlet reported that “people who were deceased or ineligible to vote” also received mailings.
In one example, former FBI agent Bassem Youssef, a Virginia resident, received a ballot for a family member who has never resided at his address, where the mailer was sent.
Youssef said he’s “never seen anything” arrive in his mail during previous election cycle.
Just the News notes:
These types of mailings are legal in Virginia but the Center for Voter Information and similar groups rely on information in the state’s official voter registration database so the state would need to remove the outdated names and addresses, according to a source.
Just the News asked the Virginia Department of Elections if it is working on updating the voter registration database so third party groups do not send absentee ballot applications to the wrong addresses or to deceased people.
“The Virginia Department of Elections does not coordinate with third parties on campaign efforts. You will have to contact the third party group directly regarding their data source,” a department spokesperson said. “Regarding our records management, the Department engages in ongoing and extensive annual and monthly list file maintenance processes.”
The press office also referred Just the News to an on-the-record statement on their webpage about the mailings. The department encourages the public to submit absentee ballot requests directly on their website.
“The Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third party groups on campaign efforts. We are aware that voters in multiple localities that received an absentee ballot application were given pre-paid return envelopes addressed to the incorrect registrar’s office,” read the statement.
“The Virginia Department of Elections encourages all voters that would like to receive an absentee ballot for the November election to apply electronically on our website www.elections.virginia.gov/voterinformation. Any applications that arrive in the wrong locality’s office will be forwarded immediately to the correct office for processing. If you have already applied for an absentee ballot, you do not need to submit a new application. The first day that absentee ballots will be mailed is September 18, 2020,” the board said.