Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing advocacy group founded by the infamous Koch brothers, is up to its old voter suppression tactics again. This time the group sent out voter registration forms to people in the state of North Carolina where there is a close Senate race between Democrat Kay Hagan, the incumbent, and Thom Tillis. Tillis, a Republican, is the current House Speaker of the Tar Heel State. ABC reported that many people have predicted that this Senate race could become the most expensive in history.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported last Wednesday that hundreds of residents of North Carolina had received “incorrect voter registration information, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections.”
One resident said that she even received a voter registration form that had been addressed to her cat!
Raleigh News and Observer:
The information – an “official application form” – was sent by Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group with a state chapter based in Raleigh.
Since then, hundreds of people who received the forms have called and complained to the State Board of Elections, said Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the board.
“It’s unclear where (Americans for Prosperity) got their list, but it’s caused a lot of confusion for people in the state,” Lawson said.
According to reports, the registration forms mailed out by Americans for Prosperity “contained conflicting information about the deadline to submit voter registration forms, incorrect contact information for the Secretary of State and State Board of Elections offices and an incorrect explanation about how voters are notified that their information has been received.”
Alison Beal, a resident of Wake Forest, said she had received one of the forms at her home. She said the form had been addressed to her brother-in-law, who lives in Caldwell County. Beal added that “she quickly noticed the inaccuracies because she has been involved in past voter registration drives. She knew there was no elections division within the Secretary of State’s office…” Beal said that “with changing voter registration laws in North Carolina, it’s important for information to be accurate.”
The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Adam C. Nicholson, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, had “declined to say how many people were sent the forms, how the group obtained the voter lists or how the mistakes occurred.”
Levi Russell, another spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, told the Huffington Post in a statement on Friday “that the forms had to be viewed within the context of what he called an otherwise ‘highly successful’ voter registration drive. Americans for Prosperity Foundation has registered thousands of North Carolinians to vote through this registration drive, which is a great thing for the democratic process and getting more people involved. While there were a few minor administrative errors in our mailers and some old information in the data, the program has been highly successful so far. Any large mailing even with 99.9% accuracy is always going to have a few inaccurate recipients, but we’ll always be striving to make it better. Ultimately our forms are working as intended – when a resident fills out our form and sends it in consistent with our directions, they will be registered to vote, period.”
Lawson told the Raleigh News & Observer that the “State Board of Elections works with political groups to prevent misinformation about voting but that Americans for Prosperity did not contact the board.” He added, “Misinformation about voter registration can be a felony if it is intentionally misleading and is proven to suppress voters.”
Huffington Post reported that Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy NC, a nonpartisan nonprofit that is dedicated to increasing voter participation, said that he believed an investigation should be conducted. In a statement last Friday, Hall said, “The State Board needs to thoroughly investigate these complaints to determine if the felony statute about purposeful misinformation was violated. Unfortunately, we’ve already had to stop the Republican leader of the NC Senate from broadcasting a false ad about a photo ID being required to vote now. There’s a sad tradition of misleading voters, going back to the days of Jesse Helms. At a minimum, the State Board needs to get the mailing list to see who was targeted by these mailings, interview the people involved in putting this project together, and see how the mailing fits within a multi-state campaign by Americans for Prosperity. All that will help the Board determine whether this was stupid and dangerous or also a criminal violation.”
Huffington Post noted that, in his statement, Hall had “referenced a television spot state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) was forced to change after the state’s NAACP chapter complained that it gave misleading information to voters after a new identification requirement that doesn’t go into effect until 2016.”
NC residents mailed incorrect voter registration information (Raleigh News & Observer)
Americans for Prosperity (Sourcewatch)