A poll worker pulls out a "I voted" sticker at the First Baptist Church of Black Mountain polling place in Buncombe County on March 3, 2020. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press
A poll worker pulls out a "I voted" sticker at the First Baptist Church of Black Mountain polling place in Buncombe County on March 3, 2020. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

For at least the second time this year, advocacy groups trying to get more North Carolinians to vote sent invalid information to voters. 

On Tuesday morning, the N.C. State Board of Elections announced that a vendor mailed voter registration applications with “incorrect name, address and date of birth information to about 11,000 NC residents.” 

The bad information came from the company Civitech, a technology vendor that works with campaigns to increase voter registration, according to the NCSBE

“With a month before the election, voters are likely to see an increase in election-related mailings,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the NCSBE, said in a press release. 

The sheer volume of mailers that voters have received has created confusion, according to Pat Gannon, spokesperson for the NCSBE. 

“Obviously,” Gannon said, “these outreach efforts can also result in more people registering and voting, which is good.” 

But the best advice is to rely on information directly from the NCSBE, Gannon said. 

Civitech and the company that printed the mailers, Print Mail Pro, are reaching out to the voters who received the incorrect mailers to notify them of the mistake and to provide properly filled-out forms. 

“We are sending corrected mailers with blank applications to all affected N.C. recipients,” said Sarah Jackel, chief operating officer for Civitech. “In addition, we will be contacting all recipients for whom we have telephone numbers by text to alert them to the error, advise them to discard the mailer, and provide any support they need to register.”

The deadline to register to vote is this Friday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. Voters who are Division of Motor Vehicle clients can register to vote online, drop off the registration form at their county board of elections or mail in the registration form. For voters mailing in the registration form, the mail must be either received or postmarked by the deadline. 

Voters can check their registration status (and the registration of anyone they know) using the NCSBE’s online voter lookup tool. 

Voters who are unable to register to vote by the deadline can still vote early in person in their counties, registering at the same time. Registration is only needed for voters hoping to cast a ballot on Election Day or by mail

In June, another advocacy group sent out 80,000 invalid absentee-by-mail ballot requests to voters. While it is legal to send out pre-filled voter registration applications (except for party affiliation), it is illegal to send out a pre-filled absentee ballot application. That distinction was lost on the Center for Voter Information. 

The group has since been sending extensive mailings, including voter registration reminders and absentee ballot request forms, without voter information filled in. 

Distrust and concern over the mailings come in part from the election fraud that happened in North Carolina’s 2018 election for U.S. Congress in House District 9. In that race, operatives working for Republican candidate Mark Harris went house to house and collected by-mail ballots from voters.  

They then either destroyed the ballots or filled them out to favor Harris. The fraud was caught before the NCSBE certified the election, and the election was rerun. 

The legislature then changed some laws around absentee-by-mail voting to prevent a possible repeat of the Harris election fraud. One such change was to keep information about which voters requested absentee ballots private until the voter turned the ballot in. 

Improperly filled-out mailers, along with bad information found online, can confuse voters. In the cases of Civitech and the Center for Voter Information, the errors appear to be a result of mistakes rather than maliciousness.

“Carefully review these mailings, and please remember that accurate information about the elections process, including how to register to vote, and how to check your voter registration status, are available at NCSBE.gov,” Brinson Bell said. 

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Jordan Wilkie is a former Report for America corps member and former reporter at Carolina Public Press. To reach the newsroom, email us at news@carolinapublicpress.org.

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