I am writing to address questions concerning postcards recently mailed by the secretary of state. The mailing was to comply with the National Voter Registration Act.
As has been reported in the Journal, this past month our office mailed postcards to approximately 186,000 voters. Each of these voters met one or both these criteria: (1) official election mail, sent to their registered address, was returned to a county clerk’s office, causing the county clerk to “flag” the voter to receive a postcard, or (2) the voter filed a change of address form with the post office showing an address different from that shown on the voter’s registration form.
Federal law requires that this mailing be conducted. There’s no choice in the matter, and state law establishes procedures and timelines to be followed by the secretary of state.
Some people are trying to scare voters by calling these legally required mailings “purge cards,” and leading voters to believe they’ll be removed from the voter file if they receive a postcard at all.
That just isn’t true.
The postcards actually serve to protect the voter, providing an important service to all voters.
Many voters have not moved, but their mailing or residence addresses may have changed because of factors out of their control. Their addresses could’ve been changed because of rural addressing changes, or changes in mail delivery within the county.
So, when a county clerk sends routine notices to those voters – such as voter information cards that tell them where to vote and what districts they’re in – the notices are returned as “undeliverable” and the voter does not receive critical information about voting.
Voters who receive the forwardable postcard we have mailed them can provide an updated registration address by returning the postcard. The secretary of state will deliver the postcards with the updated addresses to the county clerks.
The county clerks are then required to enter the corrected addresses in the voter file. By updating their addresses, those voters will be assigned to the correct precincts associated with their new addresses, ensuring that their names appear on the correct voting list when they go to vote in November.
Thus far, more than 14,000 voters statewide have taken the opportunity to update their addresses. This kind of response to the mailing will make for a much smoother voting process in November.
When voters return the cards indicating they’ve moved to a different county, the county clerk will forward the updated postcard to the new county. The county clerk in the voter’s new county will send the voter a new voter registration card.
Some of the cards come back indicating that the voter is deceased. Those records will be researched by the Secretary of State’s Office and all information available to confirm the status of that voter will be provided to the county clerks. We continue to work to ensure that the names of deceased voters do not continue to appear on the signature rosters at the polling place – and that their families do not continue receiving mail in their name, something that causes pain and upset for many.
All of these same procedures were used in New Mexico for many years and helped eliminate errors in the voter file. But for four consecutive years, between January 2007 and December 2010, New Mexico did not comply with the law. As a result, thousands of voters have continued to have outdated addresses in the voter file, and have not been receiving valuable voting information.
The current secretary of state has corrected this – and is ensuring New Mexico follows the law.
Whether voters take advantage of the opportunity to update their addresses or not, I want to reiterate that this mailer has no effect at all on anyone’s ability to vote in the 2014 election. Voters who receive the postcard should not be led to believe that they will be unable to vote.