Voters express concern over absentee flyer as state sees surge in mail ballot requests

Voters express concern over absentee flyer as state sees surge in mail ballot requests

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - With just under 100 days to go before the 2020 general election, the push for absentee by mail voting is starting to ramp up.

However, one effort to get out the vote raised eyebrows of some voters, who then reached out to WECT, concerned that a flyer they received in the mail could have been fraudulent.

The North Carolina Republican Party sent out a flyer to potential voters with two blank request forms for an absentee by mail ballot—an effort a spokesperson for the party said was to educate potential voters who their data analysts identified are likely to vote by mail.

Included on the mailer was an image of a Tweet from President Donald Trump about absentee by mail voting, and instructions on how to fill out and return the request form to be sent an absentee ballot.

Some who received the flyer said this confused them, because they understood the President to be against the mechanism of absentee voting, given certain public statements.

The chair of the state party, Michael Whatley, clarified the use of the tweet.

“The mailer highlighted the portion of the tweet relevant to North Carolina voters. We, along with the President, oppose an all-mail election where all voters are simply mailed ballots without a request or authentication,” he said, adding: “We don’t want to confuse North Carolina’s absentee system with other states all-mail elections. We agree with the president that absentee ballot request system is safe and secure. We want to provide our voters with every opportunity to utilize this tool in an easy, safe and secure manner.”

In North Carolina, a voter does not need a reason to vote by mail—she or he can choose to do so, or vote in person early or on Election Day.

Brunswick County Board of Elections Director Sara Knotts said the concern over the mailing was not surprising, because voters are wary of unsolicited ballot-related items.

She said this is especially the case if the flyer was sent to someone who no longer lives at a given address, or if the person is not affiliated with the party that sent it.

“We get calls every time,” she said. “These groups send out mailers, especially when it comes addressed to somebody that doesn’t live there. And we try to address those concerns, and sometimes the groups that send those actually tell us how people can get removed from their list.”

Earlier this year, a different mailed flyer was sent to roughly 80,000 North Carolina voters with the request form partially filled out—something that cannot be done after the investigation into election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

County boards can no longer accept forms that have been pre-filled, and they were told to scrap any that came in.

The third party that sent those mailings said it was an error, and they would be re-sending blank forms.

“We will do our best to review mailings and other voting information distributed by third parties when requested and when resources allow for it,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, said at the time. “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.”

The details, including the changes made to the state’s absentee voting law, can be found on the state’s website.

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