Postcards On Voting Cause Confusion Among Some Pennsylvanians

Oct 13, 2020

A postcard from a statewide nonprofit group has confused some Pennsylvanians ahead of the general election. More than a dozen voters reported receiving a malier from The Voter Project to ProPublica’s ElectionLand tipline. 

The mailer says, “Your ballot should be arriving in the mail soon!” But some people got the card after they had already mailed in their ballot to the local elections office. Others hadn’t intended to vote by mail at all. 

The opposite side of the mailer lists steps for filling out a ballot, including putting the completed ballot into a secrecy envelope before putting it into the return envelope.

The card comes from a nonprofit founded this year called The Voter Project. The group, which is fiscally sponsored by the Keystone Research Center, says its goal is to ensure all Pennsylvanians can cast their ballot safely and securely. The mailers were intended to educate voters about how to properly fill out the ballot, according to spokesman Mike Mikus.

The return address for the mailer lists The Voter Project’s Philadelphia office at 1229 Chesnut Street. Mikus said confused voters should check the return address on any mailer before assuming it came from the state.

Mikus suggests the confusion stems from the amount of Pennsylvanians voting by mail for the first time this year. A record number of Pennsylvanians have registered to vote in the general election.

“So it’s not surprising, some voters may get confused. But they’re doing the right thing and they’re reaching out to people to find more information,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Department of State said in a statement it supports efforts to encourage participation among eligible voters but urges voters to use the Department’s online ballot application.

 

“[These] mailings from outside organizations or political parties are confusing to people, some of whom think they are receiving a ballot, when they are actually receiving an application,” a spokesperson said.  “In the past, it was common for various organizations to mail voter-registration applications, but this year we are finding that the organizations are mailing ballot applications instead.”

 

Organizations don’t need permission from the state to mail things such as mail-in ballot applications or voter registration applications. They are also not required to submit mailings to the state to check for accuracy. The Department of State suggests confused voters check any applications sent from an independent organization against the State’s paper application.

 

According to a spokesperson for the Allegheny County elections office, the county will not send any reminders about mail-in ballots, just the application and the ballot itself. The county will send a postcard indicating where a recipient’s polling location is, but those have not yet been sent.

Those confused about whether or not they will receive a mail-in ballot can check with the state online or call the local elections office.

WESA is a partner in ProPublica's Electionland project, a nationwide media collaboration to track voting problems and election integrity. 

This story was updated on 10/14 at 1:30 p.m. to include more details from the Pennsylvania Department of State.