Ballot-look-alike mail stirs up controversy

Ballot-look-alike mail stirs up controversy »Play Video
An image of a political mailer that critics say looks like a real ballot.

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon League of Women Voters said Tuesday that a mailer being sent out by the anti-tax campaign against tax increases on higher wage earners and corporations is meant to drive down voter turnout because it gives voters the impression they’ve already voted.

The mailer looks similar to the actual ballot in which voters will use to vote for or against Measures 66 and 67, and it also states: “No Postage Required: Simply place your completed ballot in the enclosed postage-paid envelop and mail promptly.”

Critics are concerned that people receiving the mailer will think it’s the real thing and send it in instead of their real ballot, which they fear will tilt the election in favor of the opposition.

The League of Women Voters filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office alleging the lobbyist behind the anti-tax campaign violated election law. They said Mark Nelson, who is behind “Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes”, sent out imitation ballots that read at the top: “January 26, 2010 Special Election”.

 In smaller, fainter print, however, it reads: “This is not an official ballot”.

“We have anecdotal evidence it was targeted to senior voters – certain senior voters – and that concerns us,” said Marge Easley president of the Oregon League of Women Voters. “It refers to itself as a ballot – not a poll – so that causes us to be a little more concerned than normal about this,” she said.

When asked why the mailer is called a ballot Nelson responded: “Because it is a ballot. It is a ballot of our own creation.” But then he also said it was a poll.

Nelson said the mailer does not violate state election law because it says it is not an official ballot. He also said that it is pretty clear the mailer doesn’t look like the real thing.

He said his poll is not targeting the elderly and that he’s used this kind of mailer for years to get a sense of how Oregonians plan to vote in upcoming elections.

Along with the mailer is a message to voters explaining that the ballots are being collected by the Nelson Report, a polling company which claims to not be on the side of any measure.

But Mark Nelson owns the Nelson report.

He said he doesn’t think the mailer is deceptive and his polling group and his lobbying firm are two different companies.

He said he sent out a similar mailer two years ago when he and the League of Women Voters were on the same side of an issue. He said they didn’t complain about the document then.