Republican Mailing Leaves Florida Voters Confused The RNC and the McCain camp sent a mailer to Florida voters that misidentified their party affiliations and asked for money. Democrats say the mailing is meant to confuse voters in this battleground state. Republicans say Democrats are making too much of this.
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Republican Mailing Leaves Florida Voters Confused

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Republican Mailing Leaves Florida Voters Confused

Republican Mailing Leaves Florida Voters Confused

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To Florida now, where a new mailing from the Republican National Committee and the McCain campaign has voters scratching their heads and Democrats crying foul. At the very least, they say, the mailing is meant to confusion in this important battleground state. But Republicans insist Democrats are making much ado abut nothing. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: Marilyn DiMauro(ph) of Naples, Florida, is a lifelong Democrat, so she was surprised to get a letter from Republican presidential contender, John McCain.

Ms. MARILYN DIMAURO (Democrat, Naples, Florida): And I thought, well that's strange, because I'm a Democrat. And when I opened the envelope, there was a card that said that I was listed as a Republican with my registration number. So I immediately got my Democratic card, and the registration number was not the same.

FESSLER: She thought the mailing, labeled Party Affiliation Voter Registration Card, was a little fishy, especially when she found out that two of her Democratic friends had received it, but a Republican friend had not.

Ms. DIMAURO: So I just felt that there was some diabolical reason for doing this mailing. Why would you spend the money?

FESSLER: That's what Jim Reynolds(ph), another lifelong Democrat in Naples, wants to know. He happens to be a former U.S. attorney from Iowa. And says he's filed a mail-fraud complaint with the postal service. Reynolds thinks that Republicans are trying to confuse Democratic voters into thinking there's a problem with their registrations.

Mr. JIM REYNOLDS (Lawyer and Democrat, Naples, Florida): They're just doing everything to try to suppress a certain segment that they feel are not going to be favorable to them.

FESSLER: And indeed, Florida election officials have reported dozens of worried calls from voters. A copy of the mailing obtained by NPR shows that it includes an official-looking card, listing the recipient's name, address, congressional district, party affiliation and something called a voter ID number. In an attached letter, McCain asks recipients to update the enclosed card and to contribute to his campaign. Florida Democrats initially charged that the letters were directed at elderly voters, but when Jim Reynolds borrowed a phone at an office in Collier County to call me, he found a younger worker there had also received the letter.

Mr. REYNOLDS: She's sitting right here, yeah. Do you want to talk to her? Hang on.

Ms. GLORIA HERNANDEZ (Florida): Hello?

FESSLER: Gloria Hernandez(ph) says she thought there was a mistake with her registration when she got the mail.

Ms. HERNANDEZ: I just come in with my family and I say, look, I received a letter, you know, that they say, you know, that I am Republican. And my kids say, are you, Mom? And I say, of course no.

FESSLER: The McCain campaign referred questions about the mailing to the Republican National Committee where spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson says it was a routine fundraiser similar to ones used in the past and that it was intended for Republicans.

Ms. AMBER WILKERSON (Spokeswoman, Republican National Committee): In the event that it was sent to Democrats, we correct our internal files to ensure that that doesn't happen in the future.

FESSLER: She said the uproar over the mailing is political, part of a national Democratic strategy to undermine confidence in Republicans.

Ms. WILKERSON: This is a desperate attempt to try to confuse voters who are hearing John McCain's message and are - it - haven't necessarily connected with Barack Obama thus far.

FESSLER: But most of the confusion so far does seem to be coming from the RNC mailing. Jerry Holland, the Republican supervisor of elections in Duval County, received so many calls from worried voters that he released a statement last week assuring them that only a voter can change his or her own registration.

Mr. JERRY HOLLAND (Republican Supervisor of Elections, Duval County, Florida): Whoever designed the piece obviously created something, knowingly or unknowingly, confusing to some voters, because obviously they were concerned that maybe someone had changed their party.

FESSLER: This all comes as both parties mount major legal campaigns to protect against what they see as voter procedures that could hurt them in November. Democrats this week filed a lawsuit to stop Michigan Republicans from challenging voters at the polls using home foreclosure lists - something Republicans insist they don't intend to do. In Ohio, Republicans are challenging an absentee voting rule that they say will hurt McCain. Pam Fessler, NPR News Washington.

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