Watch out for a piece of mail that's confusing some Northern Virginia residents. Dozens of people have reached out to News4 asking about a letter that appears to be an application for a mail-in voting ballot -- but Fairfax County's office of elections is warning voters that this piece of mail is misleading voters.
The envelopes started showing up in the mail at the start of the week, residents say. The top of the letter including wording calling it a "vote at home ballot request form" and instructs the recipient not to discard it.
But people noticed problems when they looked more closely.
Judith, a city of Alexandria resident, received the letter, which includes a partially completed application for a mail-in voting ballot and a pre-addressed and prepaid envelope to send the application to her registrar's office. But her ballot application would have gone to the wrong address.
"I was frightened," she said. "I actually felt kind of scared. I posted it on Facebook; my friends got scared."
And there's another problem: Fairfax County Registrar Gary Scott said he's hearing from people who say their personal information is incorrect on the section already filled out.
"If the information on the application does not substantially match our voter registration records, we have to deny it," Scott said.
He said the phone has been ringing off the hook with countless questions about these applications and the group that sent them, the Voter Participation Center in D.C.
"This is a legitimate group, but they screwed up," Scott said.
The CEO of that nonprofit group, Tim Lopach, said a computer glitch printed wrong mailing addresses on many of the envelopes sent to cities and counties that share a name, such as Fairfax, Richmond, Roanoke and Franklin.
"We deeply regret the confusion that we've caused in this situation and we take full responsibility for it," Lopach said.
The Voter Participation Center, which says its mission is to increase voting in communities of color and among single women, states it is nonpartisan. Lopach has previously served as chief of staff or advisor to Democratic governors and senators.
The Fairfax County Registrar said the problems with the applications are affecting voters of all parties.
Lopach said they are offering whatever help local election offices need to fix the problem, but for many voters, some of the damage is done.
"I don't think it's devious," said City of Alexandria resident Theresa, "but I do think it's confusing, unnecessarily confusing, even if well-intended."
If you want to vote by mail, Fairfax County's registrar advises filling out an application directly on the county's website.
The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 23.