Florida to send 2.2 million postcards to unregistered voters

The postcards are required as part of the state’s agreement to participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC.
The state is sending out postcards to unregistered but potentially eligible voters ahead of the November general election.
The state is sending out postcards to unregistered but potentially eligible voters ahead of the November general election. [ Image provided by the Florida Department of State ]
Published Sept. 14, 2020

Florida will soon mail more than 2 million postcards to residents that it believes are unregistered but potentially eligible voters.

The mailings, which go out less than a month before the voter registration deadline for November’s general election, are required as part of the state’s decision to join a multi-state pact aimed at sharing voter roll information.

Last year, Florida became the 29th state to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, which cross-checks voter registration databases of its member states to help identify outdated records, deceased voters or voters who may be registered in multiple states.

The voluntary program was developed in 2012 by the non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts.

One requirement of the ERIC agreement was that Florida had to pay to reach out to millions of residents who were unregistered but eligible to vote every federal election cycle and educate them on how to get registered. At one point, ERIC had estimated that the state had between 4 and 5 million unregistered voters.

Related: 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group

Florida has not historically sent such mailings to unregistered voters, leaving that largely to third-party groups and political parties.

“This unprecedented outreach is a testament to the commitment Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have for registering new voters and encouraging participation in our democratic processes,” said one of his appointees, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, in a statement.

Yet ERIC’s requirement that Florida do this outreach to unregistered voters appeared to be a major reason for Florida’s previous delay in deciding whether to participate in ERIC.

Last year, before the state decided to sign on to ERIC, Division of Elections director Maria Matthews reportedly referred to the unregistered voter outreach requirement as the “stick” in the “carrot and stick” of the potential partnership, according to Politico.

Florida’s Department of State said Friday that the postcards are being mailed now because ERIC said it was the most effective time to conduct registration outreach. Florida’s deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5.

The state said data from Social Security death records, driver’s license databases, the U.S. Postal Service and voter registration systems were used to determine the 2.2 million people who will receive the postcards.

It’s possible that such a list could include people who may not actually be eligible to vote, including people with felonies on their records who have not completed all terms of their sentences.

States do not have handy lists of unregistered voters, which makes voter registration efforts tricky. Some third-party voter registration groups who have sent out mailers to potentially unregistered voters using their own lists have been criticized for sometimes causing voter confusion if a flier is sent to an ineligible voter or someone who is already registered.

Related: This national group aims to register more voters; Pasco's elections office has some concerns

The state’s postcard, which is in both English and Spanish, also includes a mention that voters can choose to vote by mail, at an early voting site or at the polls on Election Day.

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