OCILLA, Ga. (WALB) - An Irwin County elected official said she’s concerned about something she believes could lead to voter fraud.
Irwin County Superior Court Clerk Nancy Ross said that last month, she received a voter registration application in the mail addressed to her son, Brice, who passed away more than 17 years ago.
“I expected to receive some mail for him the first two or three years possibly after he passed, but 17 years and something as important as voter registration is absurd,” Ross said. “This is scary for an elected official.”
Brice passed away in 2002 when he was 16.
Ross said she's concerned that if he got this application in the mail, others who have passed away may have gotten them too.
"If this had gotten into the hands of someone who had the desire to, they could have done a change of address for Brice and then asked for an absentee ballot," Ross said.
The application didn't come from the Georgia Secretary of State's office, which runs elections.
It came from a non-government, non-profit organization called the Center for Voter Information (CVI).
The organization said in a statement that it works with data specialists to create a list of unregistered, but eligible voters in different states, including Georgia, and send those people voter registration forms.
The Georgia Secretary of State's office said this is perfectly legal.
The CVI issued a statement about Brice's application:
"We are sorry to have inadvertently sent this piece of mail. We have personally apologized to Ms. Ross and removed her son's name from our mailing list moving forward.
Please bear in mind that there are more than 2.4 million people who can vote in Georgia but are not yet registered, according to the U.S. Census. As a non-partisan civic-engagement group, our mission is to locate unregistered eligible Americans and get them involved in democracy. But it's an imperfect system. There is no list of unregistered voters for Georgia, so we—working with data specialists—must create our own list. And we've been successful. In our history, we have helped more than 230,000 Georgians register to vote.
Today, as a result of COVID-19, the mail-based voter registration programs of the Center for Voter Information (CVI) are more important than ever. Individuals can complete these applications in the safety and security of their homes. CVI's mail pieces provide transparency and clearly state: 'If you have recently updated your registration or are ineligible to vote, please disregard this notice,' and 'To check your current voter status or to register online, please visit your state election office's official website.'
Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We take our mailing list seriously and are constantly improving it." - Center for Voter Information
The center's statement said that the applications have a disclaimer to disregard the notice if the recipient recently updated their registration or is ineligible to vote.
Ross said she is still concerned, and receiving this so many years after he son's passing brought up tough emotions.
"It's hard every day to get up and realize that I can't carry on a conversation with him, and I can't love on him," she explained. "It's hard enough already, and then to receive mail in his name, it was hurtful."
Ross addressed her concerns with state lawmakers for Irwin County.
Sen. Tyler Harper did not give a comment.
Rep. Clay Pirkle issued a statement:
"The foundation of our representative democracy is centered on fair and accurate elections. We as citizens have the responsibility of voting to choose those who will speak for us.
I am greatly concerned that entities are attempting to "harvest ballots" to tilt elections in their favor. Nancy Ross shared with me that one of the groups attempting to harvest ballots targeted her son, who has been deceased for 17 1/2 years. I have heard other stories of multiple voter registrations on one individual. These are all concerning.
We have invested substantial resources in ensuring that the devices we use to mark our ballots are safe and accurate. We must be as diligent in ensuring that ballots which are mailed, as well as the voter registry, are accurate as well.
In my capacity as a legislator, I have seen groups send mass emails from newly created accounts to attempt to influence legislation. They send thousands of emails to create the appearance there is a lot of support (or opposition) to a specific bill. It appears this same practice is being used to attempt to “create” votes that can tilt election outcomes. Elections are important and I will support legislation which further strengthens the accuracy of our elections in this great state." - Ga. Rep. Clay Pirkle, (R) Ashburn