Goldfish gets voter registration card
October 21, 2008 at 6:11 AM | Comments (0)
Paperwork sent to a "Princess Nudelman" likely came from the "Women's Voices, Women Vote" project, said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, a Republican, who said she has spotted problems with nearly 1,000 voter registrations this year.
Beth Nudelman of Buffalo Grove, who owned the fish, said Princess may have ended up on a mailing list because the family once filled in the pet's name when they got a second phone line for a computer.
"There was no fraud involved," said Nudelman, a Democrat and supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama. "This person is a dead fish."
In August, Women's Voices, Women Vote sent nearly 1 million mailings to Illinois households using a list that mistakenly included some pets, said Sarah Johnson, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to encourage more voting among single women.
The mailing list, purchased from a commercial vendor, included names from warranties, magazine subscriptions and other sources where people may have filled in a pet's name, Johnson said. The group attempted to screen out the obvious ones.
"Fido's not going to be left on there, but if a cat is named is Polly, she may be," Johnson said. Princess could be a person's name, she insisted. "I went to high school with two Princesses."
Nudelman said the only address on the registration card was the Lake County clerk's office. She said she wrote election officials a humorous note explaining why the fish was ineligible to vote that began "We regret to inform you ..."
The Illinois mailing generated 63,500 returned voter applications, Johnson said. Applicants were instructed to fill in a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number so election officials would be able to validate their identification.
"We obviously don't want to add more work for any election official," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, our goal is same as theirs: To give as many people as possible the chance to make voices heard in our democracy."
Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the mailing generated numerous complaints from residents "throughout the state, from Cairo all the way to Chicago."
Helander said she knows such crackdowns have been criticized by activist groups as disguised efforts to discourage turnout, but she said "it would help us determine that we are having a fair election."
Lake County election officials contacted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.
The Lake County sheriff's office and the Lake County state's attorney's office were "already working on it" and were the appropriate agencies to investigate, Ziegler said.