Engaging voters or causing confusion, mailers sent out ahead of 2020 election

ORLANDO, Fla. — 8.5 million Florida voters will get a letter from the Center for Voter Information in the coming days. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group says it is trying to help educate voters and get them engaged ahead of the November election by providing them with a form to request a vote by mail ballot and a prepaid envelope.  But supervisors of elections say the letter is causing confusion.

“This organization has been doing these every six months for the last couple of years and unfortunately the quality of their database is not good,” says Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. “They’re asking people to sign up for vote by mail and what we’re finding is the vast majority already have a request for vote by mail.”

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The CVI says it submits examples of all of its materials to the Florida Secretary of State ahead of time and uses the Florida elections database for its mailers; the database is a public record that contains every voter’s name and address.

“With COVID-19 impacting elections, we have a responsibility to do all we can to safely increase voter turnout amid this uncertain time. We feel it is vital to keep voters safe and to bring democracy to eligible voters’ doorsteps. Since we are nonpartisan, we do not send mailers based on party affiliation,” said CVI President and CEO Tom Lopach in a statement to Eyewitness News. “We care if you vote, but not how you vote. With our partners, we have successfully generated more than 3 million Vote-By-Mail applications across the country this year alone. In our history, we are proud to report that we have helped more than 5 million people register to vote.”

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While the forms sent to voters by the group do include several notifications that it are from a third party , supervisors say voters become concerned when they see their information on the form and the envelope with the supervisor of elections office location already printed.

“That return envelope that’s inside is addressed to the supervisor of elections , so the voter assumes that because the supervisor elections is on that envelope that it came from us, so we are the ones that are getting the brunt of these calls from very upset voters and very confused voters,” says Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson.

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Despite the confusion, the form an envelope can be used by a voter to request a vote by mail ballot. Supervisors say if it is returned to them and the voter is an active Florida voter they will receive a vote by mail ballot if they request one.