In an effort to increase election turnout among Alaskans who typically lean left, a highly influential voter mobilization group is sending out personalized mailers that look like they could have come from the government.
The Center for Voter Information (CVI) is running a targeted voter outreach effort in Alaska, as it has in states across the nation. The organization has a particular focus on mobilizing unmarried women, young people and racial minorities, all groups that are historically known to disproportionately favor Democratic and more liberal candidates.
CVI’s strategy entails contacting potential voters using direct mailers that contain partially filled out voter registration forms, pre-paid and pre-address envelopes and letters urging recipients to turn out for elections.
Alaska State Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) highlighted CVI’s current activity in Alaska with an Oct. 23 Facebook post, which included photos of a CVI mailer sent to a Juneau resident.
Nationally, CVI’s voter registration effort is one of the largest in the country, and includes hundreds of millions of pieces of mail. CVI’s website claims its voter registration forms and vote-by-mail ballot applications are sent to “eligible voters,” and that it coordinates with state election officials to “ensure we comply with all state laws.”
CVI’s personalized mailers, however, are not without controversy. According to an NPR report, many of the group’s 2020 mailers were sent to Americans who were already registered, citizens too young to vote, dead people and even household pets. NPR noted that the CVI’s mailers have frustrated election officials, who claim the registration packets confuse people, who aren’t sure who’s sending them, or why.
Capital Research Center, established in 1984 as a nonpartisan election watchdog group, includes an extensive report on CVI and its affiliated groups in its Influence Watch program.
According to Influence Watch, CVI is “a left-of-center voter registration and outreach group that is permitted to take positions on candidates that works alongside its nominally nonpartisan and charitable ‘sister,’ the Voter Participation Center (VPC). While both organizations run general get-out-the-vote campaigns, the CVI runs targeted voter outreach campaigns for candidates. Both organizations are left-of-center, and the VPC’s political spending exclusively goes to supporting Democratic candidates or opposing Republicans.”
Influence Watch adds that CVI and VPC generated nearly 1 million registration applications and 2 million vote-by-mail applications for the 2020 elections – generally targeting those who tend to support the Democratic Party.
Both CVI and VPC share a common founder – liberal activist Page Gardner who worked closely on campaigns for both Bill and Hillary Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign.
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The current CEO of CVI and VPC is Tom Lopach, a longtime Democratic campaigner and strategist who has worked for numerous Democratic-aligned groups and individuals. These include serving as executive director of the Committee for a Democratic Majority, working as the national finance director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and being the chief of staff for Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). In 2019, Lopach became a senior advisor for the Democratic presidential candidacy of Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT). He was hired as the CEO of CVI in March of 2020.
According to a March 22 column by Lopach, his organizations have sent more than 500 million pieces of mail to potential Democratic voters over the past four years.
In 2019 Vox published an article on leaked memos from Mind the Gap, a California super PAC which advises rich liberal donors on cost-effective methods for supporting the Democratic party. The memos showed that Mind the Gap recommended CVI and its affiliate, the Voter Participation Center (VPC), as primary funding targets for benefiting the Democratic party during the 2020 election, despite the fact that both CVI and VPC are supposed to be nonpartisan.