Confusion, cats: AFP voter mailing contains wrong information

Posted September 26, 2014 4:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2014 6:50 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms with incorrect information were mailed out across North Carolina this month, but the forms didn't come from elections officials – they came from Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative nonprofit affiliated with the Koch brothers.

Some of the forms were addressed to dead people, while others went to children and even family pets. The mailing tells people to send the form to the wrong agency, and it gives two different deadlines to register to vote.

Confused voters are swamping the phone lines at the State Board of Elections trying to figure out what's going on, spokesman Josh Lawson said. Some callers are afraid their registration has been canceled, he said, while others say forms are being sent to people who have passed away or cannot vote.

"These are in fact mailers from AFP – Americans for Prosperity – containing a lot of information that we're having to do our best to correct," Lawson said. "We've had some really outrageous stories. Some folks have said that their cat got a form."

The mailers have already spawned a new Internet meme: votingcats.com. 

Some Democrats have suggested AFP is trying to mislead voters or cause voter fraud, but AFP state director Donald Bryson said that's not the case, noting any widespread mailing will have some errors.

"We just apologize for any confusion that caused, and we apologize for some errors that we had in the list that went out," Bryson said. "We're trying to get those corrected."

He couldn't say where the mailing list came from, only that it is a national effort. The aim was to increase voter registration, he said, adding that it's working. He said the project "worked exactly as intended."

"This was simply an educational effort to get more people engaged in the civic process," he said.

Elections spokesman Lawson said the errors don't appear to be intentional or criminal, but state officials will look into it further.

"Our concern is that, for every one caller, you actually have 10 people that may be just as confused and just not picking up the phone to call us. So, we're trying to get the message out," he said.

Anyone who is already registered to vote should just throw the form away, he said. People can go online to check if their registration is current. The registration deadline is Oct. 10.

For people who have already sent in the form, he said it would eventually make it the local elections board. But don't try to register a cat to vote – under state law, that's a felony.