The Voter Participation Center says it is trying to increase participation among minorities, unmarried women and people under the age of 30, with Gardner saying that those groups have historically been underrepresented in the election process. Gardner said it has helped register 1 million people since 2004 and some 300,000 people in the current election cycle.
Election leaders in Florida, another major swing state, said they received at least 8,000 forms initiated by the center in recent weeks. They also complained about some applications going to dead people, noncitizens, minors and pets.
Formed as a nonpartisan nonprofit, the organization has worked recently to produce reports alongside the liberal Center for American Progress. IRS filings show the group — formerly known as Women's Voices. Women Vote — raised and spent about $5 million during 2010, the most recent year available. Individual financial supporters are not identified in the documents.
The center conducted one mailing distribution last year and another earlier this year before its biggest mailing, which went out in June. It is planning one more for later this year.
Voter registration drives of all types can create a small subset of problems. An active voter, for example, may sign up again after encountering a registration drive at an event. Some registration workers at the community activist group ACORN were accused in past years of submitting false forms with names like Mickey Mouse — filings the group said were done by workers to increase their pay.
What makes the Voter Participation Center's work challenging is that the group is identifying voters based on data, instead of during in-person interactions. The mailings include pre-filled information that creates further confusion and concern, said Katie Blinn, a co-director of elections in Washington state.
Blinn said it appeared that many of the mailings were going to people who are already registered to vote. They have heard about a "handful" of pet-related forms in the state of the past few weeks and fielded calls from people wondering whether their registration was canceled.
Julie Anderson, the auditor in Pierce County, Wash., estimates that about two dozen residents have contacted the county about registration forms arriving for dead relatives.
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