West Virginia’s Secretary of State, who also happens to be running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat, issued a statement this week criticizing the Americans For Prosperity Foundation for sending voters “misleading and confusing” documents regarding their voter registration status.
In a news release, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office said West Virginia residents had received documents in the mail from the foundation “implying that if they do not update their voter registration they may lose their right to vote in the upcoming election.” The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is the 501(c) 3 sister organization of the well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Both groups are backed by the billionaire brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, and David Koch is chairman of the board of the foundation.
According to Tennant’s office, residents in at least eight West Virginia counties received the mailers from the foundation, which included voter registration cards and pre-paid return envelopes addressed to county clerks.
“If you have not moved, changed your name, or switched political parties, then you should throw this mailer into the trash because your voter registration is still valid,” Secretary Tennant said. “We were made aware of this situation because there was a large number of confused citizens calling our office and the offices of county clerks asking questions about why they had to update their voter registration information. The Secretary of State’s Office did not send this mailer, and it did not come from county clerks. We don’t know what the purpose of the mailer is but we do know that it is confusing citizens.”
Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for the state’s May 13 primary elections.
“In Berkeley County we had several people come into the office and call with questions about this mailer, wondering if they were still registered to vote,” Berkeley County Chief Deputy Clerk Bonnie Woodfall said in a statement through Tennant’s office. “There was a great deal of confusion and they were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to vote. The citizens who have called we have reassured them that they are still registered to vote and have encouraged them to throw this mailer away.”
According to The Charleston Gazette, the mailers told residents that “[u]pdating your registration before the deadline ensures you do not lose your right to vote in the upcoming election.” Wendy McCuskey, state director for Americans for Prosperity, confirmed to the Gazette that her group had sent out the mailers, and said that while there may have been a “few mistakes,” her group was trying to identify people who were not registered to vote.
“It was a nonpartisan effort. We identified people who are not registered to vote,” McCuskey said. “We wanted to encourage people who are not registered to participate in voting.”