LIVERMORE FALLS — Town Clerk Kristal Flagg received a request last week from a Brunswick woman for an absentee ballot that had the town of Livermore Falls' address preprinted on the application.
What the woman needed was an absentee ballot from her hometown, where she is registered to vote, Flagg said.
It appears that at least one political party sending out the preprinted absentee voter applications along with political propaganda have wrong towns and election clerks' addresses printed on them.
Several Livermore and Livermore Falls residents have received the postcards with the preprinted wrong town addresses. In Livermore Falls, people received cards with Livermore addresses on them and Livermore residents received cards with Livermore Falls addresses on them.
“They are a complete mess,” Flagg said Tuesday. “It's nice that we go overboard for people to make it easier for them to vote but when they have the wrong preprinted address on them, it makes our job really difficult to get these absentee ballots out to where they should go. It is really creating more extra steps. It's problematic for sure.”
Livermore Falls had not received its absentee ballots from the state as of Tuesday. So the request for those ballots are on hold until they do, she said.
Livermore Registrar of Voters Jackie Dion said the town received six cards that were addressed to Livermore but should have gone to Livermore Falls last week.
“It's confusing,” Dion said. She agreed with Flagg that it adds more work to the process to get the ballots out on time.
The absentee ballots should arrive in town offices by Thursday to allow for voters to have 30 days to vote prior to the Nov. 2 election, Maine Deputy Secretary of State John Smith said Tuesday.
It was the first he had heard about wrong addresses being printed on the information political parties are sending out for absentee ballot applications, he said.
The office has received numerous complaints about birth dates of registered voters being preprinted on the applications for absentee ballots, Smith said. People are concerned about privacy and identity theft, he said.
On Wednesday, Smith confirmed that Lincoln and Lincoln Plantation are having an issue similar to that in Livermore and Livermore Falls. In South Portland, some registered voters received ballot applications with the correct town and zip code printed but the wrong town clerk's office of South Poland, he said. The cards are getting to South Portland, he said.
Town and election clerks in Rumford, Jay, Turner and Farmington have received complaints about birth dates but none about wrong addresses, they said.
“Some people were very upset that their birth dates have been released,” Jay Town Clerk Ronda Palmer said. Absentee ballots arrived late Tuesday and the office staff was busy mailing out more than 50 for absentee ballots on Wednesday.
Dates of births are included on older voter registration lists that political parties buy to send out information, Smith said. The Legislature changed that in its last session and from now on only years of birth will be on the voter registration list, he said.
But those that were eligible to get those lists may still use the older lists, which have the complete birth date on them, Smith said.
Though it is not illegal, he said, the birth dates did not have to be preprinted on the application cards.
The Legislature is constantly trying to strike a balance between transparency and the right-to-know for public information and concerns over personal identity theft and security, he said.
There are general restrictions on how the information on the voter registration lists is used, including that it cannot be used for private business. However, there is no prohibition on date of births.
Smith has also talked to the Republican Party since some of the wrong addresses are coming from its mailings. They hadn't heard of the Livermore and Livermore Falls mix up but did tell him about the Lincoln and Lincoln Plantation error.
"The Maine Republican Party strictly complies with all state and federal election laws,” Lance Dutson, a Republican Party communications director, said Tuesday in an e-mail. “Date of birth is a required field on all absentee ballot applications, and was included on our mailer as a courtesy. The date of birth information was provided by the Secretary of State's Office, and is publicly available through their office."
Dutson did not comment on the address mix up.
Smith said he is interested in learning about any other errors on addresses or issues with the absentee ballot applications. He may be reached at 626-8400.