When Jena Jones opened up her absentee ballot last week, there was a lot more in the envelope than she expected. In addition to the actual ballot, she and her husband, David, noticed multiple pieces of advocacy from the Democrats.
Jones, who resides in Fairfax County, will be out of town on Election Day and requested an absentee ballot from the Virginia Department of Elections. She was surprised to discover what else came with her ballot.
“I found a letter from the governor of Virginia asking me to please vote Democrat and ‘help keep Virginia blue’ this year. Then I got a letter from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, giving me a step-by-step, yes-and-no what I should vote for as far as the meal tax and all those other things on the ballot,” said Jena.
The latter document is known as a sample ballot and is often handed out on the sidewalks outside of polling places on Election Day. But there are strict rules which forbid those sample ballots from being handed out in the polling stations.
There was no material provided in the absentee package highlighting Republican candidates or positions on various proposals. Jones did not request the ballot through the Democratic Party, she has not voted in any recent Democratic primaries and she is not a registered Democrat.
Although not a political junkie of any sort, the inclusion of fliers from Democrats but nothing from Republicans struck her as odd.
“I was a little confused as to why we didn’t get anything Republican at all, and I wasn’t sure why that was included in my ballot at all,” said Jena.
On the back of the letter from McAuliffe were lengthy, glowing biographies of Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine and her local congressman, Rep, Gerry Connolly.
Her husband, David, was serving as a witness to Jena’s vote. He was even more frustrated by all the pro-Democrat literature while no GOP materials were included.
“I also was a little befuddled because I figured that this would be a time that you wouldn’t want to encourage voters to go one way or the other, It’s just like when you walk into the precinct or the polls, they can’t be within a certain amount of feet from the voting booths and I figure they shouldn’t be able to put a piece of paper in the envelope with your ballot,” said David Jones.
David was particularly surprised by the letter from Gov. McAuliffe, which was not some simple statement thanking absentee voters for taking part in the process. Instead, it was a full-page letter, imploring Virginia voters to choose Democrats for president and Congress. It also slams Republicans and Donald Trump on issues ranging from immigration to taxes.
“If it was just a letter saying, ‘Hey we appreciate you voting. Every vote counts,’ that would make sense and I would totally back that. But when there’s a specific flier that says ‘Hillary Clinton for President’ and ‘Tim Kaine for Vice President’ laying out their platform, to me it was just biased. It was one side,” said David.
He is also worried about how others might look at the letters and sample ballot.
“I just think of the people that don’t have social media or television access, that are confined to a house, that just can’t get out, or are overseas and they’re relying on this information to cast their vote,” said David.
As a result, David took to Facebook on Oct. 20 with the photos you see in this article.
“So… in what world is this ok? Jena will be out of town for the election so we are completing her absentee ballot tonight. We open the envelope and there are two flyers from the Democrats telling her how to vote. They can’t go inside the voting places but they can put check list in this envelope??? Ridiculous!” read his Facebook post.
“It upset me I guess, because there was nothing in there that represented the Republican Party. And I knew if we were getting it then someone else also was getting it,” said David.
His post has been shared dozens of times. He says even Democratic friends and longtime poll workers have expressed shock and disgust at the Democratic Party tactics. He has reached out to several different state officials looking for an explanation. Thus far, he has received no response.
Our calls and emails to the Virginia Department of Elections have also gone unanswered.