Voting group recalls 80,000 unusable ballot applications in North Carolina

Kevin Collier

A voting advocacy group is recalling 80,000 North Carolina absentee ballot applications for having voters' names and addresses pre-printed on them.

The group, the Center for Voter Information, has sent millions of election mailers this year alone. The group said it was confused by a state law that requires every field of a ballot application be filled out by the voter.

The incident highlights the difficulties even experienced election advocates run into when encouraging Americans to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

CVI, one of the most active groups of its kind in the state, will send an explanation and an unmarked application to the 80,000 potential voters, CVI founder Page Gardner said. The group plans to send more than a million applications around the state in total.

Last year, the state legislature passed a law that nullified an absentee ballot request if it "is completed, partially or in whole, or signed by anyone other than the voter.”

“There were differences of opinion on how to interpret the statute,” Garner said. “All that being said, we respect their decision and now we're going forward to correct it.”

The North Carolina Board of Elections alerted CVI to the law after counties noticed the ballots and complained, spokesperson Pat Gannon said.

Like many states, North Carolina saw a surge of voters who chose to mail in their ballots for the primary election this spring. State lawmakers have estimated 40 percent of voters may choose to vote by mail for the general election in November.

Bob Hall, the former director of Democracy NC, another voting advocacy group, said in an email that the law preventing third parties from filling out names and addresses on ballot applications is "stupid and unneeded."

"But it is also incredibly stupid of CVI not to know the law before they carpet bombed North Carolina voters with illegal paper requests," Hall said. "What they did is terrible & confusing for voters, big headache for election administrators."

CORRECTION (June 10, 2020, 6:09 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the founder of the Center for Voter Information. She is Page Gardner, not Garner.