Mail-in voting has been in the news more lately given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A nonprofit group that encourages voter participation mailed applications to area residents that included the wrong return address for local election offices.
Last week, many registered Virginia voters received a letter and a vote-by-mail application along with a postage-paid return envelope from the Center for Voter Information, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit. The pre-filled application is correct; however, the return envelope for registered Franklin County voters shows the address is actually Franklin, Virginia. Franklin is a small town about 200 miles away from Rocky Mount, the seat of Franklin County.
Franklin County Registrar Kay Chitwood said her office has been fielding calls from registered voters about the mailing.
Chitwood said she’s been in contact with the Franklin, Virginia registrar and has agreed to forward any vote-by-mail applications her office receives in error to the registrar there. In turn, that registrar has pledged to do the same for Franklin County voters.
In a statement emailed to Laker Media, the Center for Voter Information said it would work with local election officials to correct the mistakes.
“The Center for Voter Information recently sent Vote By Mail applications to voters in Virginia, encouraging them to safely participate in democracy,” the statement read. “We are aware that some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes to the wrong election offices, particularly in the Fairfax area of northern Virginia. Please rest assured that we are working with local election officials to re-direct the Vote By Mail applications to the proper locations, and will rectify any errors at our own expense.”
According to the statement, the Center for Voter Information sent 500,000 applications to eligible Virginia voters with the incorrect information.
“Mistakes in our programming are very rare, but we take them seriously, and our methods overall are extraordinarily effective,” the statement read.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia posted information about the mailing to its website Aug. 5 that stated in addition to mix-up in Fairfax, envelopes were switched in Roanoke City and Roanoke County.
“There may be problems in other parts of the state as well,” the message stated. “This is also causing concerns because some people already requested their ballot and are now wondering why they got this. Needless to say, this is something registrars should not have to be dealing with at this time.”
Chitwood said anyone interested in voting by mail for the November election can return the vote-by-mail application they received to her office in Rocky Mount (1255 Franklin St., Rocky Mount, VA 24151) or can visit the Virginia Department of Elections website at vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation to apply to vote by mail.
Once a voter submits his application, he should receive a ballot in the mail, Chitwood said. Ballots will be available to be mailed to voters beginning Sept. 18, Chitwood said.
The deadline to register to vote in Virginia is Oct. 13, and the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Oct. 23.
Virginians can vote in any one of three ways this November: in person on Election Day at the proper precinct, early at the registrar’s office from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, or absentee by mail. Virginia does not require a reason to vote absentee. Voters do not need to make appointments with registrars to vote early, but social distancing and facial coverings are required.
Ralph Berrier of The Roanoke Times contributed to this story.