(Updated 11:10 a.m.) Be careful if you get a mailer from the Center for Voter Information, Fairfax County election officials say.
Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents have received the mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which have incorrect return addresses.
“This mailing is causing great confusion and concern among voters who have been contacting our office,” said Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott. “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”
The Center for Voter Information, a voter registration group, says its working on returning the incorrect mailers to the right addresses. Roughly half-a-million mailers included incorrect information.
“Mistakes in our programming are very rare, but we take them seriously, and our methods overall are extraordinarily effective,” the center wrote in a statement yesterday.
“We know voters are on high alert as the November election approaches, and we regret adding to any confusion,” the center added.
Jonathan Shapiro, the president of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, apologized in a statement, saying that the printing vendor is responsible for the “major error.”
“This mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office,” Shapiro said. CVI did not review the spreadsheet and the printing vendor has taken steps to make sure mistakes are caught in the future, Shapiro added.
“This is not the level of work that SED and our partner, Quad Graphics, pride ourselves on. We have printed and mailed over 100 million vote-by-mail applications and voter registration applications without error and we are committed to the highest standards of quality control and excellence,” Shapiro said. “In this mailing we fell far short of that goal. We apologize to CVI, to the staff at the affected local boards of election, and to the voters.”
County officials are warning voters about the “inaccurate and potentially misleading mailing” that asks people to return them to the City of Fairfax.
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This group is mass mailing pre-filled, absentee ballot applications to county voters without their request — and the mailer includes return envelopes to send the application to the City of Fairfax, not Fairfax County.
The mailing is also confusing voters who have previously submitted absentee ballot applications themselves, Scott added. These voters are worried that their applications were not received, leading them to think they need to apply again.
Fairfax County is working with the City of Fairfax to ensure any applications received from the center’s inaccurate mailing will be processed by the county.
“The Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third-party groups on campaign efforts,” according to the Virginia Department of Elections. The department noted that any applications that get sent to the wrong locality’s office will be sent to the correct office.
This is not the first time that mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which describes itself as a non-partisan organization that helps people vote, have confused Virginians.
The News Leader, a newspaper in Staunton, explained last year how organizations can obtain mailing addresses after the Center for Voter Information confused residents with a mailer about voter registration.
County election officials said that election information from the county will include a county seal on the envelope, along with the “Official Election Mail Authorized by the U. S. Postal Service” logo.
Fairfax County voters who want to return the Center for Voter Information applications should mail it to the Fairfax County Office of Elections (12000 Government Center Parkway Suite 323, Fairfax, VA 22035), Brian Worthy, a county spokesperson, said.
People who want to absentee vote by mail can apply online, which will allow them to track the status of their application, or vote in-person at 15 locations. Registered voters can expect their ballots to arrive after Sept. 18.
Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash, photo via mailer via Fairfax County
Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem worked on this story