Warning about misleading voter registration letters

Nearly half of a million letters have been sent out -- to children and pets.

FAIRFAX, VA (WUSA9) - A warning from the Virginia Department of Elections about a mass-mailing of misleading letters concerning voter registrations. More than half a million of these letters have gone out.

"It bothers me that it's coming to an eleven-year-old and asking for sensitive information," Ted Sibert said.

His youngest daughter received a letter from the Voter Participation Center with a Richmond address. It told her she's not registered to vote, and provided a voter registration application for her to fill out.

"It's essentially mandatory to give social security number, date of birth, gender, and your full name and where you live,” Sibert said. “Pretty immediately suspicious when I see what appears to be a pretty authoritative letter addressed to minor child."

Sibert has reason to be suspicious. Even though the return envelope has a Fairfax County voter registration office address, it's not from the county.  

"They create a lot of confusion," said Fairfax County Registrar Cameron Sasnett.

He said they've received 5,000 of these letters back, many with notes about the person they're addressed to. Several explain that the person is deceased and ask to have the name removed from the list. 

The non-profit organization Voter Participation Center has sent out 567,000 of these letters. America's Future Inc. is sending similar letters, but it's illegally using the Virginia Department of Elections for the return address, Sasnett said.  

The organizations get names and addresses from the state's voter registration list and the subscription lists.

Sasnett said that explains why children, pets and deceased people are often on them. They may be old lists and sometimes, people use children’s or pet’s names for a subscription.

Official mailings from Virginia elections officials have an official wave marking authorized by the U.S. Postal Service.

Virginians can confirm their voter registration status here. Disregard any information received from outside entities that contradict the state's official records.

The state of Virginia released the following statement, warning voters of this scam: 

The Virginia Department of Elections has received numerous phone calls from concerned voters who received a letter suggesting their voter registration status was in question.  Similar letters have been sent by at least two separate organizations – America’s Future, Inc. and the Voter Participation Center.  Letters sent by these organizations have reportedly been addressed to individuals who were already properly registered, are not qualified to register at the mailing address used, or are deceased.  Although these letters include our street address and contact information, these letters did not come from the Department and are not official election mail.  As a reminder, Virginia voters can always confirm their current voter registration status and submit necessary updates on the Department of Elections’ secure Citizen Portal at vote.virginia.gov. Voters can disregard any information received from outside entities that contradict our official records.

The Department of Elections remains committed to promoting and supporting accurate, fair, open, and secure elections for the citizens of the Commonwealth. Should you have additional questions, please contact us at (800) 552-9745 or via email at info@elections.virginia.gov.

The Voter Participation Center released the following statement:

“The Voter Participation Center (VPC) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of historically underrepresented Americans in our democracy. Since its founding, VPC has helped 3 million Americans register to vote.

Currently, 1.3 million voting-eligible African Americans, Latinos, millennials and unmarried women are not registered to vote in Virginia. That’s an alarming number and VPC is doing something about it. We are making voter registration—and voting—more efficient and effective, and ensuring that our democracy is truly representative. We are taking unprecedented steps to ensure that our mail pieces reach the right people, and have helped more than 128,000 people in Virginia register to vote in the past decade.

To provide transparency, all our forms clearly state that they come from the Voter Participation Center, a non-governmental organization, and one dedicated to increasing the participation of historically underrepresented Americans. We make it simple to check your registration status online, and to be removed from our mailing list if we’ve sent you mail in error.

Unfortunately, no state makes available a list of individuals who are unregistered to vote.  As a result, VPC must use commercially available residential databases and match them to the state’s voter file to determine who is unregistered and otherwise eligible.  VPC spends significant resources to fine tune its lists and mail only to unregistered, eligible voters.  VPC uses many ‘protocol improvements’ that are designed to make these lists more accurate, and to reduce mailings sent to people and addresses that should not receive them.

Our forms explain in multiple locations that only eligible voters should apply, stating: “If you have already registered…please disregard this notice.” There are also simple forms on the VPC website to allow voters to quickly “unsubscribe.” Finally, the forms clearly state: “If you wish to be removed from our mailing list, email this code: XXX to info@thevoterparticipationcenter.org.”

All eligible U.S. citizens should have the ability to easily register and to vote, and we should applaud efforts that help get more Americans on our voter rolls.”

--Page Gardner, Founder and President, Voter Participation Center


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