PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — The deadline to register to vote is one week away, and there are numerous groups trying to sign voters up. At least one of them is raising eyebrows.
Voter registration drives are not new, and they are completely legal. The same goes for groups sending out applications for mail-in ballots. But one mailer that has been showing up is causing some confusion and consternation.
The mailer comes with a cover letter signed by Gov. Tom Wolf. It might lead some to believe it is an official government document, but it is not. It comes from a group called The Voter Project.
That group has old voter rolls, so in some cases, they are sending applications out to dead people or they are mixing up people who have the same name but live in different counties.
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What the group is doing is not illegal, and it is probably just an honest mistake, but the governor is endorsing it by allowing his name to be used. The fact that voters are being confused frustrates at least one county election director.
“These mailings that are going out are not coming from election offices, they’re coming from third parties. They’re legitimate, but some of the material and information they’re getting is from questionable sources,” Dauphin County Elections Director Jerry Feaser said.
In a statement, the governor’s office said that the mailing did not come from them but from a third party and that they are only trying to increase voter participation, which is a good thing. Voters can choose whether to fill out and send in the form.
As you note, this mailing did not originate from the governor’s office; it is from an advocacy group working to increase voter turnout among low propensity voters. It is not only lawful for organizations such as political parties, voter advocacy groups and other organizations to provide mail ballot applications to voters, until recently, working to increase participation in our democracy wasn’t considered partisan and wouldn’t have been a controversial thing to do. After all, vote by mail passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a Republican-led General Assembly and was found to be constitutional by the PA Supreme Court. Recipients are free to choose whether or not to fill out and submit applications provided to them.Elizabeth Rementer, Office of the Governor Press Secretary
Critics ask why the governor is allowing the group to use his name when he knows it is using bad voter rolls.
“This is exactly how the system is designed to work,” said Mike Mikus of The Voter Project. “Elected officials promoting Democracy. Civic organizations providing voting information. Voters participating in the process at record levels. Local election officials ensuring we have safe and secure elections. And the media reminding people they should go to the Secretary of State website to confirm their voting status.”
The document sent out by the third-party group is only a mail-in ballot application; it is not an actual ballot.