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‘Sensitive voter information enclosed!’

Published: Friday, March 9, 2012 8:56 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, March 9, 2012 9:00 p.m. CST

PRINCETON — A mass mailing is confusing some area voters in the final days before the March 20 primary election.

Area homes are receiving an envelope marked “Sensitive Voter Information Enclosed!” Inside the envelope are a letter, an official application for a Bureau County absentee ballot, and an envelope addressed to Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus.

But Hieronymus had nothing to do with the mailing.

“You’ve got to read between the lines a little bit to figure out where it came from,” she said.

The letter is from the Campaign for Primary Accountability Political Action Committee (PAC) located in Houston, Texas. According to the letter, “We’ve enclosed an application for an Illinois absentee ballot in hopes you will use it to vote for a change in who represents you in Congress.” The letter encourages voters to fill out the application because “Our future depends on replacing Don Manzullo.”

Rep. Don Manzullo has represented Illinois’ 16th District since 1993, but redistricting changes have him running for re-election against Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who currently represents the 11th District. The two incumbents are facing each other after redistricting, following the 2010 Census that carved up both of their districts.

On Friday, Hieronymus said the PAC apparently went online and printed off the absentee application from her website. Although the letter says it is from the PAC, Hieronymus said her name on the return envelope has made some voters wonder who sent the letter out.

Hieronymus said she has received calls wondering why she sent the information out. Some voters have returned the application in the envelope with a note that they weren’t interested in participating. One woman returned the application with a change of address notice.

But the mailing is having an effect. Hieronymus said about 25 completed applications had been returned as of Thursday, which she said is a considerable number for a primary election.

Hieronymus said there is nothing legally wrong with the letter, and some groups send similar notices all the time. However, she said it is unusual to see during a primary election, and it’s unusual to have it coming from a PAC instead of one of the major parties.

While the letters are legal, Hieronymus said she wished they would send the letters out earlier.

“They always do it the week before, while we’re struggling to get the ballots out,” she said. “They always wait to a very critical time.”

In addition, because the letter goes out so late, some people will return it after the deadline, which is no later than five days before election day.

Hieronymus said the letters are also a bit of an abuse of the absentee ballot system. While anyone can request an absentee ballot, they are really designed for people who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day.

In addition to making more work for her office, the cost can add up as it costs $1.30 to send out each absentee ballot.

“I just don’t like the process,” Hieronymus said.

On Wednesday, Manzullo’s office sent out a press release criticizing the mailing.

According to the release, “A liberal Super PAC from Texas is following the lead of Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) in trying to distort the much more superior conservative voting record of Congressman Don Manzullo.”

However, Kinzinger spokesperson Brook Hougesen said her office has had no interaction with this or any other “Super Pacs.”

“It’s against the law to do so,” she said.

According to the Campaign for Primary Accountability PAC’s website, primaries are far less competitive than the general elections, and long-term incumbents must be challenged and held accountable for their actions.

According to the website, “Our goal is to bring true competition to our electoral process, to give voters real information about their choices, and to restore fair, not fixed, elections.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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