Wrong polling places may be on some of the new voter cards

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent addresses the audience during a July 9 debate with one of her opponents, Jon Thaxton, at Selby Library. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Because of mismatches between voters’ addresses on file with the Supervisor of Elections and addresses in U.S. Postal Service records, some of the new voter information cards being mailed to Sarasota County voters may contain incorrect polling location information, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent warned today, July 16.

Dent explained in a news release: “In preparation to mail voter information cards to voters, my office sent a data file to the mail house. The data contained the voters’ names and addresses, provided by the voters and on file with the [Supervisor of Elections] office. The data file also contained precinct, polling location and new political district information associated with each individual address on record.

“The mail house, which has access to the USPS address change records, unilaterally and without notice to the SOE updated residence and mailing information for some voters using the USPS records,” Dent said in the news release.

“The result is if a voter’s mailing address was changed by the mailing house, the polling location information on the new voter card may not be accurate,” she said.

While the USPS uses internal systems to verify and update addresses regularly, the Supervisor of Elections office must rely on voters to notify the office when they move or change their residential addresses, Dent noted in the news release.

Of the more than 280,000 Sarasota County voters, the mail house reported making changes to approximately 4,500 records, the news release says.

It is not yet known how many voters will receive cards with incorrect information because if the mailing address – but not the residence address – was changed, this will not affect the voter’s polling location, the release adds. Voters are assigned to precincts and polling locations based on their residence addresses – not mailing addresses.

Dent said the mail house would resend voter information cards to the affected voters within the next 10 days to two weeks. If a voter receives a second voter information card, he or she should discard the first one, the news release says.

Voters with questions or those who receive new cards which contain incorrect address information are urged to contact any SOE office at 861-8600 (Sarasota), 861-3760 (Venice) or 423-9540 (North Port).

The SOE is required by law to mail new cards to every voter as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census and subsequent redistricting process. The new cards started going out last week.