Some NYC voters got misleading letter about registration

Kaeleigh Farrish is passionate about voting and just participated in New York's state primary election last month. But on Monday she received a letter from New York City saying the Board of Elections had marked her an inactive voter, this two days before the October 17 deadline to make changes to registration.

"Not maybe, not possibly, not there's a chance—you are marked as an inactive voter," Farrish said of the letter. "I kind of panicked because I had [previously] checked my voter registration, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get it back in time and I had no idea when I'd been marked inactive."

Tyler Bugg, who said he has voted in every election since registering in New York in 2014 and hasn't moved since 2015, also got the letter.

"My heart started pounding in my chest immediately, just because I consider voting a civic duty that's really important to me," Bugg said.

Both Bugg and Farrish are among 400,000 New Yorkers who received the mailing as part of a push by Mayor Bill de Blasio's Democracy NYC program to get voters to update their registration. The thing is, voters like Bugg, Farrish and an unknown number of others, are in fact actively registered.

The confusion led to some 1,600 calls to the Board of Elections office as of Tuesday afternoon, according to an agency spokesperson. The BOE said it had nothing to do with the mailing.

"This was a clearly planned and poorly executed effort," Farrish said.

Bugg agreed and worried it would discourage some voters from turning out on November 6.

"I think it's going to sow more confusion and uncertainty in a way that's going to negatively impact voter turnout," he said.

But the mayor's office downplayed the mix-up.

"People calling a Board of Elections—that routinely bungles voters lists—to check on their registration status is a good thing," de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips tweeted.

In a statement, he admitted there were errors: "It has come to our attention that a very small group of active voters may have received inaccurate letters from the City identifying them as inactive voters. We're working to get to the bottom of why the mailing list used, which originated with the city Board of Elections, seems to have led to this error."

The Mayor's office noted 180,000 robo-calls, and 65,000 text messages of the same nature were sent out since August, without complaints. The letter, De Blasio's team said, was well-intentioned.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of good government group Common Cause, said she agrees. The group sued the Board of Elections after thousands of voters were erroneously purged from the rolls in 2016.

"If the choice is being disenfranchised or having a few moments where you have to check once again I frankly believe the voter is safer checking again," Lerner said.

To check your registration status go online to Wednesday, October 17, is the deadline to update your address with the Board of Elections.