The Alameda County (Calif.) Registrar of Voters was inundated with phone calls from concerned community members on Monday after about 230,000 residents received letters that inaccurately listed their political party.
The letters were supposed to be sent to voters who did not list a political party when they registered, informing them they could vote for candidates from either the Democratic Party or the American Independent Party. Those parties allow unaffiliated voters to participate in their primaries.
However, due to human error, the letters were inadvertently sent to a different, much larger voter database, said Guy Ashley, the spokesperson for the registrar. Many residents were then left wondering if they would be able to vote in California's presidential primary in February.
The registrar's office uses a third-party contractor, based in Washington, to print, compile and send mail to voters.
"Somebody sent the wrong list to the third-party printer," he said.
However, while Ashley said he did not know which database had been incorrectly used, many of the complaints and questions had come from registered Democrats.
Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was surprised when he received one of the letters because he has been a registered Democrat since 1972 and had recently filed his papers as a Democratic candidate for a seat in the state legislature.
He said he had also received a number of calls from concerned constituents, who felt they may have been victims of attempted voter-fraud.
Because the letters' postage was listed as being paid by a nonprofit organization, Worthington said many people felt a political organization may have been attempting to disenfranchise voters.
The nonprofit company was the independent contractor, Ashley said.
Ashley said correcting the mistake was the top priority for his office.
"This week we are going to send a follow-up letter," he said. "We are going to deal with the follow-up first and then deal with the people who should have gotten the letter."
Ashley said the one bright spot was that the registrar's office had plenty of time to inform the public of their mistake.
"The one saving grace is that we sent these letters off early enough for folks to know (by February) their correct registration," he said.
© 2007 Daily Californian via U-WIRE