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McCain's Absentee Ballot Mailer Fiasco Spreads - Could Disqualify Some Voters

Message Joyce McCloy

Florida Voter Caging Warning: McCain mailer w/absentee ballot requests September 9. 2008. Sasha Rethati of "Sound off with Sasha" on WGCU radio warns "snow birds" about a big caging scam in Florida. McCain mailers are sending people unsolicited absentee ballot requests. These mailers can be used to remove voters from the rolls.

**Update, this is still under investigation by the Advancement Project. The Florida mailer that David Rosenfeld shared with me is not an absentee ballot application, but a mailer about the voter's registration status.  A Florida paper has more:

From Democrats, Florida elections officials criticize GOP mailing By Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee Bureau Chief Sep 16, 2008

..."We have you registered as a Republican." The letter asks recipients to note changes on an "RNC File Card" and return it to the party by Sept. 26. The card shows a nine-digit "voter ID" number, but the supervisor of elections in Jacksonville's Duval County said the numbers are wrong and do not match the state's voter database....

Its not clear if there are absentee ballot cards being mailed out in Florida by the McCain Campaign. 

The mailer asks Florida voters to "verify" your "party affiliation" and to encourage you to re-register as republican if you weren't already.

We are told that this mailer can't be used for caging purposes because "non profit" postage is used.  Non profit postage won't cover the costs of returning the mailer to the sender, which is the GOP. (It takes first class postage to get mailers returned).


Fraudulent Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa? by mshakir1 Fri Sep 12, 2008 (blog, not confirmed independently)

Several days ago, I recieved an interesting piece of mail from John McCain 2008.  It was a vote-by-mail application, which I thought was curious because I have never registered as a Republican or donated money to his campaign...After opening the application placard, I noticed that the application was asking for the usual info (name, address, date of birth, etc.), but was unusual was what else it was asking for.

At the bottom of the application, there were 3 check boxes that could be filled out, any one of which could serve to prove one's identity.  One of the check boxes was for an OHIO driver's license number.  This was curious for me, because as you have probably guessed by now, I live in IOWA.  Then I looked at the back of the application card, and the mailing address was for the Director of the board of elections in Columbus, OHIO.


Rove tricks? McCain absentee ballots raise questions By Diane Sweet 9/13/08 I received my absentee ballot from John McCain just last week (see photo of the mailer) and although I called to verify that unsolicited ballots were legal, I’d never looked at an absentee ballot before in my life, so I had no idea of the problems being caused across the country by McCain’s absentee ballot forms....

John McCain’s Literature Bundled With Absentee Ballot Request Forms September 14th, 2008
...A friend showed me one that his step-daughter received in Minneapolis from an Arlington, Virginia address containing a Colorado absentee ballot request form. The addressee wasn’t ever registered to vote in Colorado and only lived there briefly to work a seasonal job. It didn’t apply to her whatsoever and she was not clear why she received it.
Missouri and Nationally.
McCain Campaign Accused Of Mailing Incorrect Absentee Ballots To Democratic Voters Written By Rick Ellis, Sunday, September 14th, 2008
More than a million registered voters in at least a dozen states have received unsolicited absentee ballots from the McCain campaign. The problem? Many of them seem to have wrong info on them, which would in many cases lead to the ballots being thrown out or disallowed by local election officials.
...Similiar ballots have reportedly been sent to registered voters in a number of states. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Iowa the ballots seem to target primarily registered Democrats or voters otherwise identified as possible Obama voters. In many cases, the ballots appear to have the address of the incorrect election office, and often an office in the wrong state.

Sending the absentee ballot to the wrong election office would almost certainly ensure it wouldn't be counted. And in most case, the voter attempting to cast the ballot would never learn of the problem in time to vote at their local precinct.
...In the battleground state of Missouri, the problem is even more complex. The McCain campaign has admitted it has sent out the ballots to voters of both parties.

...But Missouri has a strict set of guidelines on who can vote absentee. And convenience is not a valid reason. That leads to a scenerio where absentee votes could be successfully challenged by Republicans who suspect that a vote was cast by someone who did not fit the state's mandated guidelines.
On Friday, Ryan Hobart, the Spokesperson for the Missouri Secretary of State's office issued the following statement:

"Voters need to read the fine print on mailers like this because there are specific requirements for absentee voting in Missouri."
"Currently, to vote absentee, voters are required to have an excuse, like being out of town on Election Day. If they falsely make such a claim, they could be prosecuted with a felony and lose their right to vote."
...Voters in Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and several other states have reported receiving automated phone calls from the McCain Campaign, asking for permission to send an absentee ballot. Several voters in Colorado have complained they were then sent ballots with the return address of an Ohio Election Board, and similiar reports from other states have complained the ballot had the incorrect return address or some other mistake which would disallow the ballot.
North Carolina.
McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters by Greg Flynn. Thu Sep 11, 2008 (Flynn is in Wake County NC, Pictures of mailers at link)

The Campaign of John McCain has begun sending out misleading information to North Carolina voters about absentee voting. ......The critically missing piece information is the date of birth...
(Note - NC Verified Voting has contacted the NC State Board of Elections to find out what will happen to these requests that are incomplete.) 
**Update The North Carolina State Board of Elections advised by email today that the ballot request mailer in North Carolina would be accepted in most cases by County Boards of Elections.
Ballot snafu endangers votes Sept 9, 2008. ...In Ohio, the McCain campaign printed and sent out about a million of these. The campaign made a mistake: the form included an unnecessary located the question asking if the voter was eligible to vote at the top of the form where it was missed by many voters. If the voter failed to check the box by the question, he or she is stating that he or she is not eligible and the application has to be rejected by law.
My McCain Absentee Ballots by weazley (a DKos blog) Fri Sep 05, 2008
...I found it funny they were including my "Vote-by-Mail" application when all Oregon elections are done by mail. Then I looked closer at the instructions: "Request your absentee ballot in 3 simple steps" and the address on the two "Absentee Ballot Request" Cards: "Director of Elections, 420 Holmes St, Bellefonte, PA 16823".
It appears John McCain would like me to register to vote in Pennsylvania, presumably knowing (they had to get my current address somehow) that I've registered and voted 3 or 4 times since I last lived in Pennsylvania (2002-ish) in two different states (Washington and Oregon) at four different addresses.
...I'm not up on the logistics or checks involved in dual voter registrations, but it seems like asking a registered Oregon voter to request an absentee ballot from Pennsylvania might be barking up that tree.
Election fliers confuse some  BY DAVID SINGLETON STAFF WRITER Sunday, September 14, 2008
...Some county residents recently received a mailer from Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain with a pair of absentee ballot applications already addressed to Ms. Young’s office attached. The flier includes the appeal, “Vote early by mail — it’s as easy as 1-2-3.”

“Well, it’s not (that easy) everywhere — 1-2-3 is different from state to state,” Ms. Young said. “People are calling and asking, ‘Is this OK?’ ”

Although many other states have moved to give voters the right to cast their ballots in advance of Election Day, either in person or by mail, there is no provision for it under Pennsylvania law.
...An absentee ballot cast under improper circumstances — by someone who just didn’t want to be bothered to leave the house, for instance — could be subject to challenge and disqualification, she said.

"Why is a Republican, Democrat, anybody sending out an unsolicited request?" wonders Murdock.
City of Salem registrar Dana Oliver say this type of mailer is not illegal since campaigns do have access to voters' information.  Martha Brissette, a representative with the State Board of Elections, agrees.  However, the application does raise a red flag for both officials because it doesn't include instructions.
Election officials say the instruction page is critical to making sure voters fill out the application correctly so they won't be denied.  If they are, the voter would have to fill out a new application, cutting it close to the absentee deadline.
Still, Murdock wonders why she was the only person in her neighborhood to receive an absentee application.
"I don't know why the Republican party feels I need an absentee ballot and why they'd send me something that would urge me to vote absentee," she says.  "It seems like it's opening the door for problems in the long run."
McCain's mailer creates controversy By MARK PITSCH 608-252-6145 FRI., SEP 12, 2008 mpitsch@madison.com
The state elections agency is investigating complaints about a massive campaign mailing Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign has directed toward Wisconsin Democrats and other voters.
... in some cases, the incorrect clerk's address is printed on the application, leading some Democrats to wonder if the Arizona senator's campaign is deliberately trying to get them to apply for absentee ballots in places where they aren't eligible to vote.
"They're trying to knock me off the rolls," said Democrat Beverly Jambois, of Middleton. "I can't tell you how upsetting it is to me. This is how you win elections? By disenfranchising other voters?"
Her household received the flier this week addressed to her husband, Robert, a lawyer for the state Department of Transportation. The couple are registered to vote in Middleton, but the absentee ballot application was addressed to the city clerk's office in Madison....
A Wisconsin paper calls upon McCain campaign to set things right:
McCain camp must resolve mailing fiasco The Capital Times. An editorial  —  9/15/2008

When it comes to the right to vote, it is not enough after a dramatically inappropriate move to say, "Oops."

The campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain has dispatched a mass mailing to Wisconsin voters -- including many Democrats and liberals who are not likely to be McCain backers -- that encourages eligible voters to send their applications for absentee ballots to clerks in communities where they do not reside.

Following the instructions of the McCain mailing could lead voters to run afoul of election rules and regulations -- and that might lead to the disqualification or even the prosecution of an innocent citizen for supposed wrongdoing.

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Editor of the Voting News. The Voting News is a free national newsletter about election integrity issues, voting machines, election fraud, voter access and legislation in United States and international news.

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