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Richmond voters caught-up in misprint for mail-in ballot applications

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Richmonders are among hundreds of thousands of Virginia voters reportedly sent incorrectly labeled envelopes for vote-by-mail ballot applications.

The Center for Voter Information said Thursday their printing vendor incorrectly labeled return addresses on “approximately half a million applications,” according to a statement from the DC-based non-profit claiming to “provide even-handed and unbiased information about candidates and their positions on issues.”

“We are aware that some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes to the wrong election offices. The issue affects the following locations: Fairfax City and Fairfax County, Franklin City and Franklin County, Richmond City and Richmond County, and Roanoke City and Roanoke County,” the statement says in-part.

Some Richmond city residents received envelopes with a return address for the Richmond County registrar’s office in Warsaw, Va. Voters in the cities of Fairfax, Franklin and Roanoke are reported to have encountered similar issues with county registrar offices bearing the same name.

“I’m like no, something’s wrong,” said Cynthia Walloe, who is one of nearly half-a-million Virginians caught up in the mailing mishap. A voter in the City of Franklin, the return address on Walloe’s ballot application was for Franklin County.

“My fear is people that is older than me they probably don’t look at their mail like I look at my mail,” she said. “For instance, if my dad was still living he probably would’ve looked at it, he probably would have signed it and he might have sent it back.”

City of Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter told 8News a CVI employee indicated 91,000 envelopes were issued in the city, and addressed to Richmond County.

During a phone call, Showalter noted staff said their phones “are ringing off the hook.”

In an email, Andrea Gaines, director of community relations for the Virginia Department of Elections said “third party groups are permitted to send absentee applications.”

“Any applications that arrive in the wrong locality’s office will be forwarded immediately to the correct office for processing,” a statement from the department said Thursday.

President of the Philadelphia-based printing vendor Smith-Edwards-Dunlap, Jonathan Shapiro told 8News the mailing discrepancy was “human error,” and no one was fired as a result.

Shapiro said his company has not been asked to reprint the mislabeled application envelopes, and Smith-Edwards-Dunlap remains a vendor for CVI.

CVI was caught-up in a similar printing issue earlier this year in North Carolina.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections said CVI sent around 80,000 “absentee ballot request forms to North Carolina residents with voters’ information already filled out on the forms;” a new North Carolina state law prohibits pre-filled absentee ballot request forms.

In a June statement CVI said they then sent the same voters blank absentee-ballot request forms. 

The North Carolina State Board of Elections said CVI asked board staff “to review a sample mailing in April, and State Board staff did not catch the pre-filled forms at that time. However, CVI sent some mailings before forwarding the final product to elections officials for review. Election officials discovered the issue after these mailings were sent to voters.”

When asked about the North Carolina incident, Shapiro told 8News he was not aware Smith-Edwards-Dunlap was involved.

Shaprio said “I’ve done other printing jobs” for other voter application-type settings, but declined to share the names of business partners.

The Virginia Department of Elections says voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot online

With stay-at-home orders and more people taking precautions during the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, Showalter said nearly 7,000 vote-by-mail applications have already been approved in Richmond.

At this point in 2016, she said her office would have had 200-300 applications for the November election.

CVI could not be reached for further comment.

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