More than 500,000 Virginians discovered unsolicited vote by mail applications in their mailboxes recently, courtesy of the Center for Voter Information, in an apparent attempt by the group to push vote by mail in a state President Donald Trump has declared in play for Republicans in 2020.
The applications, which are legitimate absentee ballot request forms, came with the name and address of the prospective voter already filled out, leaving the final four social security digits and ballot mailing address as the only blank fields required for receiving a ballot, made possible due to Democrats’ recent repeal of Virginia’s voter I.D. laws.
“The Virginia Department of Elections encourages everyone to use an absentee ballot in upcoming elections,” a letter, signed by Center for Voter Information President Lionel Dripps, attached to the form read. “I have sent you the enclosed absentee ballot application already filled out with your name and address.”
“Just sign, date, and complete the application…you will receive a ballot from your local registrar which you can complete and return without ever leaving your home,” continued the letter, before invoking the health of voters and their families amidst the spread of COVID-19. “Voting by mail keeps you healthy and safe. The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your whole community during this time is to vote by mail.”
While the ballot applications and attached letter were sent to voters in all corners of the Commonwealth, it would seem that special attention was paid to Democrat-leaning population centers and battleground districts, with residents of Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, the capital city of Richmond, and Virginia Beach, all reporting that they had received the mailer, including the sons of Jarome Bell, a recent candidate for the Republican nomination to Congress in Virginia’s 2nd District, and conservative activist.
“These are being mailed out to people in VA,” Bell wrote in a Tweet. “My sons received these today. This is voter fraud. No one requested an application for an absentee. The 800 # and address are fake!”
These are being mailed out to people in VA. My son’s received these today. This is voter fraud. No one requested a application for an absentee. The 800# and address are FAKE! pic.twitter.com/rl4iLg6Hov
— Jarome Bell (@JaromeBellVA) August 6, 2020
While the Center for Voter Information doesn’t address the Virginia Beach applications in a statement released on their website, they do address applications sent to voters in Fairfax County, Richmond, and six other jurisdictions, about 500,000 in total, that were pre-addressed to incorrect locations.
“We are aware that some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes to the wrong election offices,” reads the statement. “Approximately half a million applications sent to eligible voters in Virginia included incorrect information, and we are working diligently to address the issues.”
In an additional statement, Jonathan Shapiro, President and CEO of the group’s printing vendor, Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, describes the Center for Voter Information as an “organization whose mission is to help members of the Rising American Electorate – young people, people of color, and unmarried women – register and vote.” According to Shapiro, alongside the Center for Voter Information, he has sent out over 100 million vote by mail and voter registration applications.
While Dripp and Shapiro claim the “non-partisan” Center for Voter Information exists to assist the “Rising American Electorate” and keep your community safe from COVID-19, the group’s history suggests otherwise.
According to a 2019 report from “Y’all Politics,” a Mississippi-based politics and news website, the Center for Voter Information spent that state’s 2019 election season acting more like a Center for Voter Intimidation.
The Secretary of State’s Office is cautioning the public about misleading letters sent before the November 5 General Election. Voters received letters from an organization, Center for Voter Information, giving their neighborhoods a “grade” based upon voters’ alleged previous vote history according to party affiliation. The letter implores voters to “vote for the candidate, not the party.”
The Center for Voter Information, is a D.C.-based group labeled as “nonpartisan” but has a history of supporting Democratic candidates and opposing Republican candidates.
In Mississippi, voters do not register by political party so the “grade” is inaccurate. There is no such information which could be obtained to determine a voter’s support or lack of support of a party since voters do not register by political party in Mississippi.
Additionally, according to the same Y’all Politics report, the group sent out similar mailers in Kentucky the year prior.
Last year, a similar letter was mailed out in Kentucky. Residents were confused by letters sent to their homes claiming to be part of a study which would reveal whether their they and their neighbors have voted in the last few elections. Similar to the letters in Mississippi these letters warn that future mailings will list their names if they don’t vote.we
According to an article in the Herald Leader, “This chart shows the names of people you know and their election histories,” read one of the letters sent in late October to some Lexington residents, above a chart identifying 10 registered voters by name and showing their voting histories — but not how they voted — in the 2014 and 2016 primary and general elections.
In the Kentucky incident, calls to Page Gardner, the $190,000-per-year president of the Voter Participation Center (the Center for Voter Information’s sister organizaiton), and Lionel Dripps, the managing director, were not returned. Dripps is a former Democratic Party campaign operative and field organizer according to his LinkedIn profile.