Voter registration group mails form to a dead poodle in Cortez

voterA voter registration group has sent letters to dead people, dead pets and even non-citizens and children as part of  its voter registration drive,  an effort that has resulted in some angry and unusual letters to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

“There is no one by that name at this address and I have lived here since 1981. This must be your mistake.”

“I am David and I am only 14 years old.”

“I apologize for having my daughter-in-law write this letter for me, but unfortunately for me I DIED Feb. 15, 2003 …  I’m flattered that someone still remembers my name, but I would have assumed that someone would have notified your office of my death before now.  Hope this clarifies any confusion because I sure wouldn’t want anyone voting falsely and using my name. I have always been an upstanding citizen and took my voting rights as a privilege.”

The registration drive was organized by the Voter Participation Center, a national group with a Denver office on Larimer Street. But the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is taking the heat for the faulty names and addresses because the VPC includes in its letter a voter registration form to be filled out and mailed to the SOS office at 1700 Broadway in Denver.

Jennifer Carrier, an attorney for the Voter Participation Project, said her group matches data to the Social Security Administration’s “death master file,” as well as using “groundbreaking direct mail techniques to foster registration and voting by under-represented populations in the American electorate.”

“Overall, every so often, even using these best practices,” she stated, “a mailing is sent to someone that should not receive one.”

“Dear (name),” the letter begins.  “According to our records, you reside in (name) County and are not currently registered to vote.”

Coco, a standard poodle, died last November but recently got a voter registration form. Owner Llois Stein of Cortez joked that in this photok, where Coco is 5, she is trying to find her registration data. (Llois Stein)
Coco, a standard poodle, died last November but recently got a voter registration letter. Owner Llois Stein of Cortez joked that in this photo, where Coco is 5, she is trying to find important documents. (Llois Stein)

One such  letter went to a “Coco Stein” in Cortez. The registration form then was mailed to the state with the following message scrawled across it:

“Coco died in November 2014. She would have voted for Ted Cruz because he barks a lot … . She was a standard poodle, a virgin and a loyal member of the A.K.C.”

Llois Stein — yes, two Ls on Llois — told the SOS  that over the years she’s  gotten some mail addressed to her pet, who died at the age of 13, but never something as official as a voter registration form.

She’s glad her message amused the elections staff because that’s what she intended, but not everyone is smiling.

Hilary Rudy, the deputy elections director for the Colorado secretary of state, said the comments on the returned forms indicate the letters are creating unfounded suspicion about the integrity of the state’s voting database.

“No wonder there has been so much election fraud,” one woman wrote, noting the letter was addressed to a last name she has not used in 13 years.

“How many people are you going to have voting 2-3 times?” another Coloradan wrote.

One Coloradan included the picture of a headstone to show that the person who received the letter died in 1993 and now is buried in a Kansas cemetery. “At no time,” the voter wrote, “has he ever lived in Colo. or at this address. How you would get his name with this address only shows how screwed up things get.”

Carrier noted her office worked with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, but Rudy said that was on making sure the registration form met the state’s legal requirements and not on the center’s mailing list.

The center in late September mailed more than 1.4  million registration applications to prospective voters in eight states.

“VPC’s error rate has traditionally been lower than 1 percent,” Carrier said in an e-mail. “Misdirected mail creates confusion and wastes money — neither of which are in VPC’s interests.  This is why … they continue to improve their list cleaning procedures in order to get the most accurate list possible.”

She noted that the Voter Participation Center tries to “lessen the confusion” by noting in the the first paragraph, “If you have already registered at this address or are not eligible to vote, please disregard this notice.”  The group also includes a bolded link to GoVoteColorado.com, the state’s super easy way to check voter registration.

The Voter Participation Center effort originally began as Women’s Voices, Women’s Vote, but changed it’s name in 2011 to reflect its expanded focus, according to news reports.

As the center noted, most of the time it hits the mark. Here are some responses in cases where it did not:

“I am registered to vote in Pueblo Co. I have voted there for the last 68 years.”

“Mr. Gonzales has not lived at this address for over 20 years.”

“I have been married for 35 years. Please remove my maiden name.”

“Have not lived in Bldr Co for 26 years!”

“Sorry I cannot vote. I am not a citizen of the United States.”

“She moved to Alaska 20 years ago.”

“She never lived in Weld County and her residence right now is heaven. She passed away 25 years ago.”

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