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Organization ‘fires’ workers for giving misinformation during voter registrations

By Mark Wineka

mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A pair of Community Voters Project workers were fired Tuesday after complaints they were misleading people in their efforts to register them to vote.

Rowan County Board of Elections Director Nancy Evans said part of their misinformation was telling people if they didn’t register now or update their information, they would face a fee later.

Evans said the Community Voters Project representatives, who were soliciting people Monday outside of Walmart and Tru Value and inside West End Plaza, also identified themselves to people as being part of the “elections.”

Evans stressed they were not employees of the Rowan County Board of Elections, nor did they represent the board.

There are no fees connected to voter registration.

The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 8 election ends at 5 p.m. Friday.

Evans said Marshall Tutor, an investigator with the State Board of Elections, contacted the Community Voters Project director who apologized and said the workers in question were “fired” Tuesday for failing to follow the nonprofit organization’s policies.

“There were hired Saturday, fired today,” said Evans, who actually spoke to the workers at the West End Plaza after receiving complaints Monday.

The new Board of Elections office is located in the West End Plaza. Evans said she received three calls expressing concerns about this particular voter registration effort and also had another person step into the office with questions about what the pair were saying.

“I walked out there and asked them who they were with,” Evans said.

They identified themselves as being with the Community Voters Project out of Charlotte, she said.

“They were all confused,” Evans added. “I don’t know where they got their information.”

With many people they were talking with, the workers said they could register them to vote, and by doing so, waive the fee they otherwise would have to pay.

“I don’t know what all they were saying,” Evans added. “Maybe what I said helped.”

Evans heard that after the Community Voters Project workers went to Walmart a second time, they were asked to leave.

Evans stressed Community Voters Project is a legitimate organization aimed at increasing voter registration, but these particular workers were misrepresenting themselves and the registration process.

It is not known whether the people in question were volunteers or staff.

“People need to be careful and ask questions and don’t assume everything is OK,” Evans said.

Before learning Community Voters Project had addressed the situation, Evans’ office issued a press release Tuesday morning warning about the people who were encouraging citizens to register so they wouldn’t face a fee.

According to the Community Voters Project website,  the organization aims at “increasing civic engagement among under-served and underrepresented communities, focusing primarily on African Americans, Latinos, and in some locations, young people, through non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns.”

To date, the website added, Community Voters Project has registered 190,000 voters. Its goal for 2015-16 is to register 200,000 voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Colorado and Arizona.

In North Carolina, it has offices in Raleigh and Charlotte. It is a project of the Public Interest Network and is sponsored by the Center for Public Interest Research and the Fair Share Education Fund, both nonprofit organizations.

The website adds: “The Community Voters Project functions on a personal level – their staffers and volunteers are in the streets, continuing the fight against disenfranchisement by registering voters one by one and providing clarification into the (sometimes intentionally confusing) registration and voting processes.”

Anyone can pick up voter registration forms and register eligible people to vote. Evans said if organizations are doing big registration drives, they can order, for example, up to 1,000 voter registration forms online off the State Board of Elections website.

If you have questions about registering to vote or your registration status, contact the Board of Elections Office at 704-216-8140.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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