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Misleading texts are steering Kansas voters to the wrong polling places. It's a nationwide problem

 A text message containing incorrect information sent to a voter in Overland Park, KS.
Zach Perez
/
KCUR
A text message containing incorrect information sent to a voter in Overland Park, KS.

Voters across the country reported getting text messages directing them to vote at incorrect polling locations. A progressive political organization said the errors were unintentional, but experts warn the mistake could affect voter turnout on Election Day.

Kansas officials are warning voters to be wary of text messages directing them to incorrect polling places on Election Day.

In a statement Monday morning, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab urged voters to confirm their polling place through the Secretary of State’s website.

“The Secretary of State’s office does not use third parties to contact voters or share election information on our behalf,” Schwab said. “State and local election officials are the trusted sources for election information.”

The texts themselves, sent by multiple third-party voting advocacy groups, included voters' real home addresses and the address of an incorrect polling location.

The incorrect polling places sent to voters were often public buildings, such as libraries, government offices and schools that are not active polling locations.

Voters reported receiving identical texts from three different organizations: Voting Futures, Voto Latino, and Black Voters Matter.

Sharon Brett, legal director of the Kansas ACLU, says that the messages initially appeared to be part of a single national campaign.

“The message is always identical but with different names for the entity depending on who the voter is,” Brett said.

Voto Latino released a statement Tuesday via a third party public relations firm, West End Strategy Team:

“We have been made aware of the issue and it is not our intent to create voter confusion. Our vendor had a database issue, and we are working to contact everyone that might have been affected with the correct information. Additionally, we have suspended any future campaigns with this vendor.”

Movement Labs, an organization that creates political text message campaigns encouraging progressives to vote, confirmed it was behind the texts sent out on behalf of the three organizations. The company said it texted corrections to all the numbers originally contacted.

“Text messages sent on behalf of Voto Latino, Black Voters Matter, and Voting Futures to voters in KS, NJ, IL, NC, and VA, we sent information to encourage voting that has caused confusion amongst voters,” Movement Labs said. “We take full responsibility for these mistakes and have issued correction texts encouraging voters to verify their voting place with the secretary of state website.”

The texts come as thousands of Kansas have already voted early in midterm elections, and many more are preparing to vote in the Nov. 8 election.

The Kansas ACLU also released a short statement via Twitter urging voters to report any fraudulent information they received.

Brett says that it’s important to understand just how damaging disinformation scams like this can be.

“May voters who don’t know their polling place may rely on false information given by these organizations.” Brett said. “If they get turned because they went to the wrong polling location they may be discouraged from voting in the election.”

Find up-to-date information about where and how to vote in Kansas on KCUR's election guide.

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3

Zach Perez