09/23/04 — Residents confused by NAACP voter drive

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Residents confused by NAACP voter drive

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on September 23, 2004 2:00 PM

Has anyone called you this week, saying your voter registration was incorrect or had been canceled?

Don't believe it, elections officials say.

A snafu by a national telemarketing company working for an NAACP voter drive has caused thousands of North Carolinians, including dozens of Wayne County residents, to get the misleading phone calls.

This has resulted in angry calls to boards of elections.

"They're really getting people stirred up," said Wayne County Elections Director Gary Sims. "We were killed by calls all day Wednesday."

Marshall Tutor, an investigator for the State Board of Elections, first heard a complaint about the calls Tuesday evening. He sent an e-mail to all 100 county boards Wednesday and found that the calls were being reported in at least 30 counties, he said in a telephone interview today.

The callers were reportedly asking for personal information, including Social Security numbers and date of birth.

The vast majority of the calls are going to homes in predominantly black neighborhoods. But the people called also included a high number of elderly people. Tutor first suspected a group was either trying to gather information for an identity theft scheme or was trying to suppress the vote in the Nov. 2 election.

But he tracked the calls back to their source -- a telemarketing firm that had been hired by the national NAACP. The group was comparing 2000 census data to voter registrations in targeted neighborhoods and calling residences that seemed to have unregistered voters.

But some of that information was outdated, incorrect or didn't match correctly, Tutor said. For example, if a street name was spelled slightly different in the two databases, the telemarketing firm's cross-referencing didn't pick up some registrations.

Tutur was relieved to discover the problem, he said. "It wasn't a conspiracy, not a dirty trick. It's just one of those things that happen in an election."

Anyone who wants to verify their registration status may do so in several ways:

*Go to the N.C. State Board of Elections' Web site, www.sboe.state.nc.us, and click on "voter registration."

*Call the state board at 1-866-522-4723 (toll free).

*Go to the Wayne County Board of Elections' site, www.waynegov.com/boe.

*Call the county Elections Board at 731-1411.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 2 general election is Friday, Oct. 8. People who've already registered do not need to re-register but should update their registration information by the deadline if they've moved.