Registrar: Unsolicited voting applications legit

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Isle of Wight residents along with many thousands of Virginians received unsolicited vote-by-mail ballot applications.

Although the voting applications are legitimate, many of the mailings, including some sent to residents in western Hampton Roads, include a prepaid return envelope with an incorrect address for the local registrar’s office. The information from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Voter Information began arriving in mailboxes over the last week.

The mistake is due to human error and Virginia’s penchant for similar place names. Voters in the City of Franklin, for example, who return an application in a mislabeled envelope provided could have their documents unintentionally sent to Franklin County, near Roanoke. However, mailings sent to Isle of Wight County voters appear to be addressed correctly.

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Isle of Wight County registrar Lisa Betterton confirmed the applications sent to Isle of Wight voters are valid.

“Our address is correct, so the recipients can send the applications to us and we will process them, if they choose to vote absentee,” Betterton said in an email.

The Center for Voter Information has apologized for the confusion and promised to help local voting officials rectify the mistakes at the nonprofit organizaton’s expense. About 500,000 mailings have the wrong information.

“This month, CVI sent more than two million vote-by-mail applications to voters across the state, including about 8,000 in Isle of Wight County,” CVI said in a statement. The organization describes itself as a non-partisan group that works to empower young voters, people of color and unmarried women, a demographic they describe as the rising American electorate.

The organization has worked with another group, the Voter Participation Center, to generate more than 900,000 vote-by-mail applications nationwide, and helped more than five million people register to vote.

Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Co., the voting rights group’s printer, took responsibility for the mistake.

“This mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office. We did not send the spreadsheet to CVI for review, and our own internal proofing procedures failed to catch the mistake. The error was entirely ours,” Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Shapiro said in a statement posted on the voting group’s website.

“We are keenly aware of the seriousness of this mistake,” Shapiro continued. “We added to the burden already felt by local election boards and made their jobs significantly harder. Worse, this error created confusion for voters who are trying to exercise their right to vote from home, safely and conveniently.”

State officials said absentee voting applications sent to the wrong place will be forwarded to the correct office. The Department of Elections said it has no affiliation with the voting rights group and that it does not coordinate with any third-party organizations on campaign efforts.

“We are aware that some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes to the wrong election offices,” the Department of Elections said in a statement. “The issue affects the following locations: Fairfax City and Fairfax County, Franklin City and Franklin County, Richmond City and Richmond County, and Roanoke City and Roanoke County.”

The state said voters who wish to receive an absentee ballot for the November election may apply online at If you’ve already applied for an absentee ballot, you do not need to submit a new application. Absentee ballots will be mailed starting Sept. 18.