By Tori Richards | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — A voter registration group accused of registering corpses, children and family pets says it has made changes that would steer it clear of fraud, yet last month it mailed a solicitation condemned by the Louisiana secretary of state in July.
In response to a Watchdog story in which attorneys general from several states slammed the group as an abettor to voter fraud, The Voter Participation Center says it has implemented changes to better target women, minorities and young people — the voting bloc President Barack Obama is courting in his bid for a second term.
“We take the mailing list process seriously, and work with our mail vendors who buy various commercial lists and then match them against voter files to ensure that the people we mail are both eligible to vote and unregistered at the current address,” VPC responded in an email without an attribution to a specific person.
VPC says it has cleaned up its mailing lists by implementing a new and more accurate 13-step program. The group uses names that have been entered into databases for magazine subscriptions, utility bills and practically anything else that involves filling out a form, a source said. VPC claimed the mishaps with pets, corpses and children were due to these lists.
But one of the areas rife for fraud is when the group sends out a pre-filled application, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said in July. And that’s exactly what arrived in the mailbox of Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman and presidential candidate from Colorado.
Tancredo received a VPC mailer a month ago addressed to his email password and containing an application that was filled out with his personal information.
“I noticed that there is no registered voter with your name listed at your current address,” the VPC mailer stated. “In case this is not a mistake, I wanted to write and help you get this problem fixed.
“To help you out I have enclosed an application, which I already filled in with most of the basic information. All you need to do is look over the form to make sure it is correct, make any changes as necessary and complete the form. Then sign it and drop it in the mail. It is really that easy,” said the mailer, which was signed by VPC’s founder, Page Gardner.
The letter closed by thanking Tancredo for being a good citizen and making his voice heard.
Gardner played a key role in President Bill Clinton’s campaign before founding Women’s Voices Women Vote, a precursor to VPC. She raised funds for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and, under VPC, has partnered with Center for American Progress, a group run by Obama transition team leader John Podesta.
“This group is nothing more than a front for the Obama camp,” Tancredo charged of VPC.
In its response to Watchdog, the anonymous VPC author defended the nonpartisan nonprofit, saying it has sent out 10 million pieces of mail this election.
“VPC and our mailings do not mention issues, candidates, politics, or anything remotely partisan,” the email said. “Our mission is to encourage women, persons of color and younger voters under the age of 30 to register and vote because they are underrepresented in the voting population.”
In addition, “VPC’s efforts have been applauded by many civic engagement groups and those who VPC has helped register to vote.”
VPC refused to answer any additional questions or divulge the name of the person who wrote the responses. But it did provide insight into its new fact-checking system, which includes:
- Keeping a list of pet and fictitious names, now numbering about 3,000;
- Avoiding sending mail to people born before 1926;
- Sending no more than one follow-up mailer to a non-responder;
- Excluding mailings to households with five or more names;
- Removing or rechecking mailers with an initial as a first name;
- Searching the Death Master File kept by the Social Security Administration.
The group’s activities came to light in February, when Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told the group to stop sending out voter applications without a signature line, rendering them invalid.
Months later, Gessler’s counterparts in Florida, Louisiana and New Mexico accused the group of soliciting people who have no legal right to vote in addition to soliciting the dead, children, pets and people who were already registered. Problems attributed to VPC also surfaced in Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, among other states.
Tancredo’s password debacle is apparently a first with the group.
“VPC does not have access to DMV information such as social security numbers and we do not have access to passwords,” their email stated. “VPC purchases lists from commercial vendors for VPC’s mailings but we do not receive or have access to such information as you describe.”
But for Tancredo, the evidence was there written on an envelope and an application. He was shaken when we viewed the offending piece of mail and wondered what the group could be doing with such privileged information.
“They are an evil organization,” he added.
Contact Tori Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org.