Democratic Party officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, are categorically denying that pro-Democrat campaign materials were included in the same envelope as a voter’s absentee ballot, arguing that pamphlets were sent in a separate mailing to absentee voters from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, or FCDC.
Earlier this week, Jena and David Jones shared their story of finding more than they expected in the envelope that contained 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.
In recent days, at least two more people contend they received the same materials in the envelope with their absentee ballots.
After the report was first published, and shared on Facebook by David Jones, Fairfax County Democratic Committee Executive Director Frank Anderson replied to David’s post to dispute their account of what the ballot envelope contained.
“These materials were NOT sent in the same envelope as the ballot. The ballot is mailed separately by the Office of Elections. Political parties are free to mail items to voters who request absentee ballots. The two envelopes arrived at the same time,” commented Anderson, showing a photo of the pro-Democratic materials and the separate envelope they are designated to be sent in.
That triggered a quick back-and-forth between David Jones and Anderson.
“I hate to tell you but you’re wrong. All items came in one envelope,” said Jones.
“Impossible. That letter came out of my office. We never have access to other people’s ballots,” replied Anderson.
“Then it seems those that sent the ballots have access to YOUR letters,” said Jones. “Who should I believe? You or my lying eyes?”
Anderson then stated that political parties are informed when anyone requests an absentee ballot and mailings are sent to those voters to promote Democratic candidates and positions on ballot initiatives.
“I am literally sitting down the hall from the place where those envelopes are stuffed. We are a political office and have no business handling anyone’s ballots. You can believe what you want to believe,” concluded Anderson.
The Virginia Department of Elections did not respond to repeated attempts for a response. But after seeing our reports, Anderson protested the premise of the story.
“Please stop spreading these absurd allegations that are just hearsay from a misinformed voter who cannot verify his claim,” stated Anderson in an email, in which he also explained why he believed the Jones account could not be accurate.
He also shared a photo sent by State Sen. Scott Surovell, showing his absentee ballot envelope next to a separate envelope containing Democratic Party advocacy.
In a formal interview, FCDC Communications Adviser Bruce Neilson says the Jones version of opening the envelope cannot be true.
“It’s not possible,” said Neilson, who then explained how absentee voters are approached by the local Democrats.
“Voting is a sacred privilege and a right of every citizen. The activity of voting is also a public record. The Fairfax County Democratic Committee receives a notice of everyone who has requested an absentee ballot. We get that information as public information on the day the ballot is mailed,” said Neilson.
“The same day the ballot is mailed, our volunteers prepare materials to advise voters what the Fairfax (County) Democratic Committee knows to be Democratic positions on the ballot,” said Neilson, noting the materials include fliers on candidates and ballot proposals like the meals tax.
However, he insists those materials are never sent with the ballot itself.
“That material is mailed in a separate envelope, labeled with our initials – FCDC – and our return address in Fairfax, Virginia, and would be received either the same day, perhaps the day before or the day after she received her official absentee ballot from the government,” said Neilson.
“It’s a separate mailing. It’s a separate stamp. It’s a separate envelope. It’s very easy to confuse where they came from if you have all those materials on the table at the same time while you’re filling in your votes,” said Neilson.
Jones is standing by her story 100 percent, as is her husband. David says it’s a very clear memory.
“Jena opened the envelope that contained her ballot, the green sample ballot, the two-sided letter from the governor and card with kids on it saying “go vote” or something of that nature. There was also the return envelope which I signed,” said David.
The coverage of Jena’s story has also elicited similar stories from two other Fairfax County voters. Both of them commented on Reddit.
“I can confirm this. I live in Herndon, VA (Fairfax County) and also received these materials in my absentee ballot. I thought it was fishy at the time but didn’t look into it,” stated a comment by a reader using the handle thisisaterriblename.
Another, under the Reddit handle Nightingale-Nights, said the same thing happened to them and posted similar photos to the ones David and Jena shared last week.
Neilson says there is no way the county government, which sends out the ballots, could be including partisan materials in the envelope containing the ballot.
“They don’t have our materials. Our materials are printed for us, by our printer, and we have complete control over our materials in our office and they come from our office in our mailing. They don’t go anywhere else,” said Neilson.
“It’s not possible that the county government is distributing partisan Democratic materials. It’s never happened before. I’m not aware of it happening now. And I don’t think that it would happen anywhere in the future,” said Neilson.
There are only a few known complaints of stuffed ballot envelopes in Fairfax County, leading David Jones to believe an individual in the government is responsible. He accepts the explanation that the Fairfax County Democratic Committee is not responsible for what he and Jena discovered with her ballot.
“I understand Frank’s comments about his office has nothing to do with the ballots. I believe that. I think what we are seeing here is a person that actually stuffs and mails the ballots is taking it upon themselves to add in extra material. I don’t see how Franks office could be held accountable for what’s in the ballot envelope. But it does seem odd that others are now reporting similar issues,” said Jones.
Neilson says there is no chance of that scenario being true.
“I just can’t imagine that happening because of the internal controls that we have on the literature that we mail,” said Neilson.
He also says the internal controls at the county government are air-tight.
“I am an election official. On Election Day, I serve in a non-partisan capacity for our county election office. I can assure you, you have Democrats and Republicans working in the office. You have plenty of oversight of the voting process and there’s no way that a partisan political piece was mailed with her ballot. There is no way that happened,” said Neilson.