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Mail-in voters: Got a postcard saying your ballot isn’t in? Here’s what may have happened.

A Democratic political action committee's mailer has caused some confusion
A postcard sent by a Democratic PAC to mail-in voters in Florida. [Photo courtesy Jonathan Goldfarb]
A postcard sent by a Democratic PAC to mail-in voters in Florida. [Photo courtesy Jonathan Goldfarb]
Published Oct. 23, 2018

Jonathan Goldfarb was confused by the postcard at first. In bold letters, it read: "IMPORTANT ELECTION NOTICE," and then, smaller, "ACCORDING TO OUR RECORDS, YOU RECEIVED A VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT, BUT HAVE NOT YET RETURNED IT."

Except, Goldfarb said, he had already sent back his completed ballot.

"It did seem like something from the state," he said. " I knew that we had already returned (the ballot), but (the card) doesn't have a date."

He visited a website listed on the card and reached a page to check his voter status. Goldfarb, 30, of Satellite Beach, learned his county supervisor of elections had received his ballot.

The mailer, it turns out, came not from state or county elections officials, but a political action committee backing Democrats in the 2018 election. At the bottom of one side, it reads: "Paid for by the For Our Future Action Fund."

The group has spent $880,000 this cycle supporting U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets website. For Our Future has spent another $685,000 against Nelson's Republican challenger, Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

It's unclear how many people received the mailer. It included a phone number for a hotline administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. That number had received 415 calls about the card as of Monday, according to ProPublica.

A postcard sent by a Democratic PAC to mail-in voters in Florida. [Photo courtesy Jonathan Goldfarb]
A postcard sent by a Democratic PAC to mail-in voters in Florida. [Photo courtesy Jonathan Goldfarb]
For our Future has been working in Florida since 2016 and “has been communicating in-person on doors, through mail and by phone” to get mail-in voters to return their ballots, said state director Ashley Walker in a statement.

"Providing voter education is the most important component of ensuring that as many Floridians are able to cast their ballots as possible," she said.

Outside groups can obtain lists of people who have received vote-by-mail ballots, as well as snapshots of who has returned them at a given time. But mail is slow, meaning that some people are bound to have sent in their ballots in the days it takes the literature to reach their doors.

Without close inspection, cards like this can be confusing, but they should always list funding sources and should never carry official seals of state or county elections offices.

For Our Future has run similar ads on Facebook, according to ProPublica's Facebook Political Ad Collector, as have a number of other organizations this cycle.

The Tampa Bay Times is partnering with ProPublica on a project called Electionland, which seeks to examine not just the outcome of elections across the country, but the mechanism of voting itself. If you have any issues casting a ballot, or are confused by a message you received, please get in touch with us. Follow Electionland on Twitter or Facebook, or message the Times. Email to get a message straight to a reporter.

While the information was out of date on the postcard Goldfarb received, he said he respected the intent. He is a registered Democrat.

"I do appreciate the kind of general get out the vote," he said.

To check your voter information status, visit:

This story was reported using data from ProPublica's Electionland.


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