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Voter mailings face criticism in Pasco

Mailings from a group telling women to register to vote have caught flak from the Pasco Supervisor of Elections.

The voter registration packages come from the Voter Participation Center (www.voter

participationcenter.org), a 5-year-old project by a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., called Women's Voices, Women Vote. The mailings come with a prepaid envelope addressed to the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee.

Pasco's elections supervisor, Brian Corley, said his staff has received 518 of these packages, dutifully filled out by voters and sent to Tallahassee, which forwarded the packages to him.

But he's been getting complaints from other voters who don't understand why they are being asked to fill out the forms.

"A lot are already registered voters," Corley said Thursday. "We all want people to vote — it's a wonderful thing. But the part that troubles me is when they tell people to return the packages to comply with state law. It makes people think this is something official. This is disingenuous."

The wording on the package reads: "To comply with state voting requirements, please return the enclosed application."

Voters do not have to return it, Corley said.

For those who need to get registered, filling out the forms is one way. But part of Corley's discomfort is that those who are already properly registered are also filling them out.

Women's Voices, Women Vote is a nonpartisan organization on a mission to encourage unmarried women to vote, said spokeswoman Sarah Johnson. She said she understands Corley's concerns, but that the mailing was merely encouraging single women to register. Single women are less likely to vote than married women, according to the organization.

Johnson said Women's Voices, Women Vote compiles its mailing list by using a computer system that compares commercially acquired lists, such as magazine subscribers, with Florida's voter database. It also sifts through U.S. Postal Service address changes to see who moved and might need to reregister. The system then targets unmarried women who appear to be unregistered, and mailings are sent urging them to register.

The nonprofit does not receive the replies, Johnson said.

"We don't ever get their returns," she said. "Their personal information is as safe as if they had registered directly with the state of Florida."

Florida is one of 22 states where the Voter Participation Center operates, Johnson said. The states are chosen based on the number of unmarried women and their inclination to vote, she said.

The latest mailings were part of 688,000 sent two weeks ago in Florida. In January, the organization sent 966,000 such mailings statewide.

Obviously, there are glitches in the Voter Participation Center's computer system.

"Some of these complaints we've been getting are that the packages were addressed to deceased people and 9-year-old girls," Corley said.

Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

Voter mailings face criticism in Pasco 03/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:19pm]
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