Taking Action: Can political parties collect absentee ballot applications?

Posted at 10:40 PM, Oct 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-01 22:40:27-04

Every Virginia voter knows how it feels to be bombarded with political mailers, but one from the Republican Party of Virginia caught the attention of Norfolk voter Debbie Ennis.

“I just did not feel comfortable with this,” said Ennis.

The mailer urges voters to fill out the enclosed Virginia absentee ballot application form, in order ‘to avoid the lines on Election Day.’

“I was concerned that they are asking for your social security number, and it's being mailed back to the Republican Party office in Richmond, not to the local Norfolk voter registration office,” said Ennis. “I just thought, is this legitimate? What is the motivation behind this? Which people are responsible for doing this?”


Virginia Voter 101: What new rules you need to know about

Click here to view forms of ID accepted : Page 1Page 2

Click here to download Absentee Ballot Form for Virginia

So Debbie came to NewsChannel 3, asking us to take action and find answers, and we went to straight to Chesapeake Registrar Al Spradlin.

He wasn't shocked to see the mailer because he got one himself at his own home.

“It’s legal but I don’t like it,” said Spradlin. “Whether it's Republican or Democrat, it's outside of what we consider to be the normal channel.”

We went to the Republican Party of Virginia, but they declined an interview with us only providing this statement:

"Each year, our party reaches out to voters who might not be able to make it to the polls on Election Day because of their commute, service in the military, etc., and mail them an absentee ballot application. This is a common tool used by both Republicans and Democrats to help expand voter participation."

Spradlin doesn't question the mailers' motives, but he does say it adds several layers to a process that should be simple for all voters.

“It confuses the voter, that’s my concern,” said Spradlin.

So what do you do if you got one of these absentee mailers?

You can send it back to the Republican Party, or you can cut out the middle man by putting it in an envelope and sending it to your local elections office.