Outside groups in Georgia are sending absentee ballot applications to voters, potentially causing confusion and delays in mailing ballots.
The Patriots Foundation, a self-proclaimed watchdog group, has been conducting a nonpartisan voter turnout effort in various states around the country, according to the group’s president, Craig Robinson. The effort has come after the state of Georgia decided not to send out absentee ballot applications for its upcoming elections.
The mailers, which were coming from the Patriots Foundation’s address in Iowa, confused and surprised at least one Georgia voter who wasn’t expecting the unsolicited mailing, according to KARE 11. Robinson acknowledged that the mailers came from his out-of-state organization’s address, but said the addresses on the envelopes for the applications were all for local county election offices.
“Yes, my office address is the return address on the delivery envelope. The address that the absentee request is returned to is the local county auditors office,” Robinson said in an email statement to CNN.
Robinson said the group is simply attempting to encourage voter turnout.
“We encourage all voters who are eligible to exercise their right to vote, and if they are permitted to vote by mail to consider doing so,” Robinson said.
Jordan Fuchs, the Georgia deputy secretary of state and chief of staff to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told CNN that the state’s voter list is available for purchase on the state website to any groups “for the purposes of outreach and education.”
Georgia has a primary runoff in August as well as the general election in November.
The mailers come as election officials across the country have been encouraging vote-by-mail as a pandemic safe option. For Georgia’s June primary, Raffensperger sent out nearly 7 million absentee ballot applications requests. For the November election and the August runoff, though, Raffensperger doesn’t plan to repeat the mailing, prompting third party groups to step in
Fuchs told CNN that Raffensperger decided against a similar mass mailing for August and November in order to cut down on some of the “hiccups” experienced in the primary, instead pushing for voters to request ballots on an absentee ballot website. The site will require voters go online to requests their ballot instead of filling out a paper form, like those used in the primary.
“Third parties on the left, right and nonpartisan groups are sending applications to various targeted groups. Data collected from voters on their request forms should be redirected to county elections offices, not third parties. Please mail all of your requests to your specific county elections office, ” said Walter Jones, Raffensperger’s voter education manager.
Mailing absentee ballot requests on-time and successfully getting the official ballot to voters has been a lingering problem against the backdrop of the 2020 election cycle and the coronavirus pandemic. States failed to get thousands of absentee ballots to voters in recent primary elections.
Still, this isn’t the first time such a mailing has gone out and caused some issues for Georgia voters in an election year. In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign sent out about 20,000 absentee ballot requests with the incorrect voter identification numbers. The clerical error put many of the absentee requests at risk of not being processed, according to Maggie Chambers, spokeswoman for the Georgia Democratic Party. But in the end, the error didn’t stop the ballot requests from being processed.
“This is not an uncommon practice by any means,” Chambers said. “But you certainly see campaigns sending out things to facilitate vote-by-mail, usually looking at smaller populations. Though I think we’re probably going to see bigger groups doing it this year.”
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Patriots Foundation is sending mailers from its address in Iowa and that the return addresses for the ballot applications are for local county election offices.