Why am I getting this message saying I may not be registered to vote or signed up for mail ballots?

Don’t stress if you’ve received a confusing message; check with your county supervisor of elections office to make sure your information is correct.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers registering to vote at AdventHealth Training Center.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers registering to vote at AdventHealth Training Center. [ KYLE ZEDAKER | Tampa Bay Buccaneers ]
Published Oct. 2, 2020

If you’ve gotten a confusing text message or a letter in the mail questioning whether you’re registered to vote or signed up for a mail ballot, don’t panic.

As the countdown to Monday’s voter registration deadline looms and as Election Day draws ever nearer, get-out-the-vote groups have been working to reach voters.

The efforts behind the messages you’re receiving may be well-meaning. But these third-party efforts have been criticized for, at times, causing confusion if a message is sent to someone who is already registered, already signed up to receive a mail ballot, or to someone who isn’t eligible to vote.

“I appreciate there are people out there that want people to register to vote or have requests on file for mail ballots,” said Julie Marcus, Pinellas County’s supervisor of elections. But she said it’s problematic if the organizations are “using databases that are outdated, sending things to people who are deceased or who have been off our voter rolls for years.”

This issue is not new. For years, some elections supervisors like Brian Corley in Pasco County have pointed out problems with third-party groups sending voter registration or other mailers to people who may already be registered or who may not be eligible at all. There have been stories of people who are deceased or of people’s pets receiving mail.

There is no handy list of unregistered voters, which makes voter registration efforts tricky. Groups may also not have the most recent data on voters who have requested mail ballots.

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

Organizations like the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Voter Participation Center and others say they are doing important work of helping register voters, and that they have worked to get better data.

“With COVID-19 impacting elections, we have a responsibility to do all we can to safely increase voter turnout amid this uncertain time," Tom Lopach, chief executive officer and president of the Voter Participation Center, said in a statement. "We feel it is vital to keep voters safe and to bring democracy to eligible voters' doorsteps.”

Elections officials say it’s a good idea for voters to check their voter registration and mail ballot status to make sure they’re accurate. They can do this by visiting the website of their county supervisor of elections or the state’s voter information lookup portal.

Voters should also not click on or go to links if they are not familiar with the person or organization sending it.

“Look yourself up, see if you’re registered, reassure yourself. Pick the phone up and call us,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer. “We’d be more than happy to verify stuff for you.”

With the coronavirus pandemic tempering some in-person voter registration operations, it’s no surprise that many groups are using mailers or other messages to try to reach voters, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who studies elections.

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McDonald had predicted months ago that such mailers would be common this year, and that with them would come some confusion due to inaccurate databases.

“Are there flaws in it? Absolutely. There (are) flaws with everything,” McDonald said several months ago.

And it’s not just nonprofit voter registration groups or political parties that struggle with incorrect data about voters.

The Florida Department of State last month sent out postcards to 2.2 million people it thought were unregistered. But the list included some people who were registered but whose personal information is protected from public records.

Related: Florida to send 2.2 million postcards to unregistered voters

That was the case for Corie Holmes, a St. Petersburg resident who said that the postcard made him worry that a glitch had erased his name from the voter rolls.

Holmes said he called the County Supervisor of Elections Office and was told his registration was fine.

Experts say that, regardless of whether they receive a message or not, voters should check with their county supervisor of elections offices to make sure their voter information is correct.

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HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING IN FLORIDA? WE HAVE THE ANSWERS: We’ve compiled information on voter registration deadlines, rules for voting by mail and more.

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