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Secretary of State, Voting Orgs Clash Over Election Mailer in Ohio

June 3, 2022 by Dan McCue
Secretary of State, Voting Orgs Clash Over Election Mailer in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Prospective voters in Ohio should be wary of unsolicited pieces of alleged election-related mail that look like official government documents and contain partially filled out voter registration forms, the Ohio secretary of state said Thursday.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he felt compelled to issue the warning after his office and those of county boards of elections throughout the state received dozens of constituent calls and emails about a “deceptive” mail campaign intended to sow confusion among voters.

But the groups that are sending out the mailings are crying foul, and say they believe their efforts should be embraced by anyone interested in advancing Americans’ right to vote. 

The mailings are being sent by the Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information, nonprofits that conducted a massive campaign to register voters and promote mail-in voting in about two dozen states ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Their activities prompted concerns similar to those raised by LaRose from election officials in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, and an investigation by ProPublica, the nonprofit news organization.

The Center for Voter Information later complained the ProPublica piece misconstrued its activities and purpose, prompting a lengthy response from the news organization.

In August 2020, Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott said of the groups’ mailings in Virginia, “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”

The mailing is also confusing voters who have previously submitted absentee ballot applications themselves, Scott continued adding, these voters are worried that their applications were not received, leading them to think they need to apply again.

On Thursday, LaRose asserted the new round of letters “make better tinder for a fire than effective voter information.”

“It’s dangerous that this group continues to actively threaten voter confidence with their misleading campaign. Ohio voters should know VoteOhio.gov is the trusted source for all election information,” he said.

On Friday, the Center for Voter Information forwarded The Well News a lengthy response to LaRose’s claims from Tom Lopach, president and CEO of both organizations.

“The Ohio secretary of state has mischaracterized the important work of our civic-engagement organizations,” Lopach said. “VPC and CVI are bringing democracy to Ohioans by providing hundreds of thousands of voters with the exact same official voter-registration applications used by their county governments. 

“In fact, our mailings are reviewed and approved ahead of time by the Secretary of State’s office. Ohio residents can easily register to vote by simply signing the application from VPC and CVI and dropping it back in the mail,” he said.

Lopach said both nonprofits work to ensure that the New American Majority — people of color, young people, and unmarried women —  participate in democracy “equal to their presence in society.” 

“We have been incredibly effective in Ohio and that’s a mission that all secretaries of state should embrace,” he added.

“People in the New American Majority make up about 52% of the voting eligible population in Ohio, but don’t always vote up to their full potential. We work to address that gap. Since 2003, VPC and CVI have helped more than 5.7 million people register to vote nationwide, including over 365,000 Ohioans,” Lopach said.

“VPC and CVI take their mailing-list process seriously. With the help of industry-leading vendors, we use all precautions and the best technology available to ensure that our mail recipients are both eligible to vote and unregistered at their current address. We constantly refine this process to ensure accuracy. VPC and CVI will keep working to ensure that all eligible Ohioans can make their voices heard in November and in future elections,” he said.

In an email, a member of the Ohio secretary of state’s staff told The Well News, “Our team is looking into all possible courses of action regarding this issue. In the meantime, we encourage voters to visit VoteOhio.gov for trusted information on voting.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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