Nonprofits' attempts to register voters cause confusion in Central Florida
Supervisor of elections offices say letters are from third-party organization
When Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office employee Susan Scatliffe opened up a letter from the Voter Participation Center, it included a registration form prefilled for her late mother.
She was one of many across the state who received those letters, including 7,000 people in Lake County, which, according to the Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, is causing confusion.
"Several of these people have called us and said, 'I am registered to vote,'" Hays said.
His office, along with the Supervisor of Elections Office in Marion County, alerted its voters that the letters are coming from two nonprofit third-party organizations: the Voter Participation Center and Center for Voter Information. In Marion County, the Supervisor of Elections Office's message on Facebook said not only people already registered but "deceased persons, minor children and even pets" are receiving these letters.
"Our effort today is to make sure our voters understand the information received from these two other sources encouraging you to register to vote did NOT come from our office," Hays said. "The worst case scenario, I think, is the confusion and the undermining the confidence of our voters in the system."
The confusion comes at a time when confidence in the election system, for some, could be questioned. Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed that a second county in the state was hacked during the 2016 election. The two counties hacked have not been named.
"I'm not afraid, but it's something you dare not relax and let your guard down at all," Hays said.
Local supervisor of elections offices are working hard to make sure their systems are secured ahead of the 2020 Elections, starting with the primary in March. Hays credits DeSantis and the state for pouring millions into funding to secure Florida elections.
"We've had Homeland Security here on our property twice. We have other things that candidly we can't talk about to enhance and test to make sure it's secure," Hays said.
As for the letters being sent from the third-party organization, Page Gardner, the founder and president of the Voter Participation Center, says they are well-intended and meant to get as many people registered to vote as possible.
"The key point is to make sure more and more people participate in our democracy," Gardner said.
Gardner also said there is no "unregistered voter list," so they rely on vendors to get their data.
"No process is perfect," Gardner said. "We want to do as much as we can to improve the quality of our list. We have literally 22 steps we take once we get the list from the vendor to further improve the quality of the list. We want to be better and better at it, and we want to work with elected officials to make sure the lists are as accurate as they can be."
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