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Advocacy Group Sends Invalid Absentee Ballot Request Forms to 80,000 NC Voters

Thursday morning update

The Center for Voter Information issued its own press release Thursday morning. 

The non-profit and non-partisan Center for Voter Information (CVI) announced today that it is mailing blank absentee-ballot request forms to 80,000 North Carolina residents. The mail recipients previously had received request forms that CVI had partially filled out with the recipient’s name and address. CVI is sending out the new mailings voluntarily, to ensure maximum voter participation in the state.

In a press release today, the North Carolina State Board of Elections stated that, due to a new state law, civic-engagement groups such as CVI cannot send ballot request forms “with voters’ information already filled out on the forms.” Although CVI had previously shared samples of the mail pieces with state election officials, CVI decided today to send a fresh batch of blank absentee forms to prospective voters, in an abundance of caution.

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 and states that a request for absentee ballots is not valid if the “completed written request is completed, partially or in whole…” CVI believed that it was complying with the new law, and had received written assurances from the state regarding its mailing. 

CVI and its partner group, the Voter Participation Center (VPC), mail registration applications to unregistered individuals, and absentee-ballot request forms to registered individuals, along with pre-addressed envelopes to make it easy to bring democracy to the doorstep of so many people. Since 2003, the organizations have helped register more than 4.6 million voters nationally.

As millions of Americans self-isolate because of the coronavirus pandemic, mail-based voter registration and vote-by-mail efforts have never been more important. CVI and VPC run the nation’s largest mail-based voter registration program, and their work is crucial today. www.centerforvoterinformation.org

Original story below

The State Board of Elections has learned that a voter advocacy group mailed about 80,000 absentee ballot request forms to North Carolina residents with voters’ information already filled out on the forms.

state law passed last year prohibits election officials from accepting absentee ballot request forms pre-filled “partially or in whole,” and the State Board has instructed county boards of elections not to process such request forms.

The advocacy group, The Center for Voter Information (CVI) in Washington, D.C., halted additional mailings with pre-filled voter information after N.C. elections officials informed the group of the issue.

CVI plans to send about 400,000 additional mailings to N.C. residents, but they will include blank absentee ballot request forms, which are valid.

County boards of elections that receive an invalid absentee request form will send a letter to the voter informing them of the issue. The letter will include a blank request form for the voter to return.

The State Board urges voters to discard any absentee ballot request form they receive that includes pre-filled voter information.

CVI asked State Board staff to review a sample mailing in April, and State Board staff did not catch the pre-filled forms at that time. However, CVI sent some mailings before forwarding the final product to elections officials for review. Election officials discovered the issue after these mailings were sent to voters.

“We will do our best to review mailings and other voting information distributed by third parties when requested and when resources allow for it,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections. “However, it’s ultimately up to advocacy groups to ensure their mailings do not confuse voters or potentially affect their ability to vote in an election.”

All registered voters in North Carolina may request an absentee by-mail ballot. The official 2020 State Absentee Ballot Request Form is available for download from the State Board website. Voters may also pick up a request form from their county board of elections or call their county board to request a form.

For the November 3 general election, the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is October 27. Voters may request a ballot now. Starting in early September, ballots will be mailed to voters who request them.