Justice

Koch-Funded Advocacy Group Under Investigation For Misleading Voters

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The Koch brothers funded group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) has once again been caught disseminating false voter registration information, this time in North Carolina. According to the State Election Board, thousands of North Carolina residents have been calling to complain about an erroneous ‘official application form’ sent to them by AFP. The mistake-riddled form gives voters the wrong deadline for voter registration, and directs them to send their registration documents to the wrong address. AFP has a vested interest in this election, having spent over $7 million on attack ads against Democratic senate candidate Kay Hagan as of March of this year. A formal investigation by the election board is now underway.

Around 2,000 North Carolina residents have called the State Board over the past two weeks expressing confusion about the mailer, Joshua Lawson, a public information officer at the North Carolina State Board of Elections told ThinkProgress. It is common practice for the board to work closely with political groups in order to prevent misinformation, but no one at AFP contacted the board prior to sending the mailer.

Americans For Prosperity declined to clarify how many forms were sent, or what the organization’s targeting method was. Speaking to the Huffington Post, AFP spokesman Levi Russel blamed “administrative errors” for the incident, arguing that “Any large mailing even with 99.9% accuracy is always going to have a few inaccurate recipients.”

In North Carolina, intentionally disseminating misinformation about voter registration is considered a felony if it suppresses the vote. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the State Board will be able to prove that foul play was involved in the AFP mailer. Guilt can only be established on an “extremely high standard,” Lawson told ThinkProgress. “The only thing that would be criminal would be intent to suppress, and proof that turnout has been suppressed.” he said.

This is not the first time AFP has sent misleading or inaccurate correspondence regarding voting procedure. In the high stakes Wisconsin recall elections of 2011, AFP sent out a mailer telling voters to submit their absentee ballots two days after election day, and to the wrong address. Additionally, West Virginia voters received a misleading letter from AFP in April of this year that made it seem like it was too late to register to vote. The letter informed voters of the fictitious need to update ‘voter registration status’ by April 22 – the same day voters reported receiving the letter.

With higher voter turnout tending to favor Democrats, confusion regarding voting procedure could play an important role in North Carolina’s upcoming election for Senate, in which Hagan leads republican Tom Thillis by four points. Just this election cycle, North Carolina’s Republican controlled state legislature ended out of precinct voting and same day registration, while cutting the early voting period by one week.

Joaquim is an intern at ThinkProgress.