Jackson County

‘That’s just asking for someone to steal your identity,’ Jackson County voters say

Pamela Marsh thought Jackson County was asking for too much personal information to be sent through the mail on an open postcard. She wondered if it was a legitimate request.
Pamela Marsh thought Jackson County was asking for too much personal information to be sent through the mail on an open postcard. She wondered if it was a legitimate request. klnelson@sunherald.com

With all the news about hacking and identity theft, Pamela Marsh was very leery of a notice she got in the mail this week from the Jackson County Election Commission.

The notice told her to detach the postcard from the notice and mail it in with some very key personal information on it.

She contacted the Sun Herald to see if the request was legitimate and to point out her concerns.

“They were asking me to fill in my name, date of birth, address, previous address, Social Security number, telephone number, signature and date,” she told the Sun Herald. “Even if this is legitimate, there is absolutely no way anyone should be sending that information through the mail on a postcard for everyone in the world to see.

“That’s just asking for someone to steal your identity,” she said. “They say not to use your Social Security number even with a secure link to your bank anymore, certainly not on an open postcard through the mail.”

The word optional is in parenthesis beside the Social Security number, but she said people might overlook that when filling out the card.

The no-nonsense notice says you need to fill out and return the attached postcard in order “to vote in future elections.”

Marsh said she didn’t want to get ripped off, but she also wanted to secure her right to vote.

Turns out, the Election Commission is serious.

It has sent out thousands of these notices this year in Jackson County. If you get one and don’t return it within 30 days, you will have to vote by affidavit ballot in the next election.

And if you fail to vote in two federal elections, they’ll take you off the voter rolls.

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office said counties have been sending some form of confirmation cards for years to verify a voter’s address. The National Voter Registration Act requires it.

It’s part of the process of purging the rolls of people who have moved away or live in a different voting district, officials say.

What made it tougher for Marsh is that her notice said the post office alerted the Election Commission that she had moved. She wondered why, since she has lived in the same house all four years she has lived in Jackson County, but Jackson County Election Commissioner Michael Dickinson said the alerts come to them in different ways, for different reasons.

He said if the county sends out a jury summons to someone and it comes back, the Election Commission is notified and they send out the confirmation card. This card is asking voters to prove they really live in the county at the address they claim. And it must be signed when it’s returned.

“Yes, we recognize the problem with that much information, however, we have to be able to identify you (the voter). There may be four John Richard Smiths in the county,” he said.

He said they have discussed the amount of information they’re asking for and the format. He said they have had 5,000 cards printed up recently, but future ones may be different.

For the time being, he confirmed that it would be enough for the person who gets such a notice to write down their current address on the postcard; if it hasn’t changed, write “same” for the old address; sign and date the card and send it back.

If a voter prefers, he can go to the Circuit Clerk’s office in the Jackson County Courthouse on Canty Street in Pascagoula and update the information in person. Or he can confirm or change his address securely on “Y’all Vote” at yallvote.sos.ms.gov.

Dickinson also suggested putting the postcard in an envelope to protect the information. He said they have received a number of the cards with the notice stapled or taped over the postcard to keep the information covered.

He reiterated that the Social Security number is optional. But purging the voter rolls is not.

“We want every voter’s vote to count,” Dickinson said, “and if they are voting in the wrong place, the vote doesn’t count. We’re trying to protect the integrity of the vote and the voters right to have their vote counted.”