Unsolicited vote-by-mail applications: Spam? Scam? Legit?

Yes, that mailing you got from the Center For Voter Information is real – but largely unnecessary. Nebraska election officials have already made it easy to vote by mail this year.

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For even the most astute voter, it can be easy to feel uneasy this election season. Mix in a persistent public-health crisis and concerns about mail delivery, and, well, we understand the anxiety.

A reminder for Nebraskans: Voters in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties were sent forms to request an early mail-in ballot in August. Several other counties in the state joined in; and this week, the Office of the Nebraska Secretary of State began mailing request forms to registered voters in the 65 remaining counties. Bottom line, that means every Nebraskan on the rolls before Labor Day should get a card to request an early mail-in ballot. State officials will finish mailing the forms to registered voters Friday, Sept. 11.

So where’s the confusion? On top of all this, some Nebraskans also are receiving letters and request forms from the Center For Voter Information, a national group encouraging early mail-in voting this fall. The CVI is sending out mass mailings with letters and paper applications for an early ballot inside.

They look something like this:

Some Nebraskans are receiving an envelope from The Center for Voter Information (left) with a letter and a vote-by-mail application inside.

Spam? Scam? Legit?

As the state’s leading voting rights organization, Civic Nebraska has gotten more than a few skeptical queries about these mailers. Is it spam? Is it a scam?

Well, the short answer is no: The Center For Voter Information is doing what third parties – including Civic Nebraska – often do before each election. It is working to drive voter turnout. However, the timing of these letters in Nebraska, right as state election officials are sending out vote-by-mail applications so that all registered voters are covered, has created some alarm.

Do I have to fill it out and return it?

Nope. Because Nebraska’s registered voters are already getting a vote-by-mail request form from election officials, it’s not necessary to fill out and send back the application from the Center For Voter Information. If given the choice between sending in the one from election officials and the one from the Center for Voter Information, we’d recommend you choose the one sent to you by election officials.

Oops, I sent both back just to be sure. What will happen now that I’ve filled out more than one application to vote by mail?

Your first request will be processed. Anything else will be discarded as a duplicate. Our election systems have guardrails against sending out multiple ballots – you can’t, for example, send in three requests for a mail-in ballot, and then get three ballots. If you send in three requests for a mail-in ballot, only the first one counts and you will only get one ballot.

Why are so many groups promoting vote-by-mail this year?

Politics and pandemics. As the concern over COVID-19 continues, there’s an extra focus from officials and civic organizations like ours to vote by mail to prevent viral spread. Nonprofits, political parties, and other third-party organizations see benefits in driving vote-by-mail. For us, we want as many people to participate in our representative democracy as possible. For example, we’ve built an Election Calendar to help remind you of important early-voting deadlines and dates. The Center for Voter Information is taking this a step further and sending vote-by-mail applications directly to some voters. You can ignore it if you wish.

Remember: In Nebraska, vote-by-mail is easy, safe, and – amid an ongoing pandemic – a healthy alternative to in-person voting. Regardless of how they process our votes, our election officials are top-notch professionals, our systems are strong, and we have supreme confidence in their work to count every vote. Want to be sure as the fall progresses? You can always track your ballot status here.

And, as Election Day nears, make a plan to vote. If you have questions or concerns, you can always call our Election Protection Hotline at 402.890.5291.

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