A state senator erroneously listed the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections address as the return address on campaign mailers recently sent out.
Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, in an emailed statement from his campaign, said the return address mistake happened when his campaign sent out mail to voters who had previously voted by mail.
"We included an Absentee Ballot request form and return envelope pre-addressed to the Mecklenburg Board of Elections," his statement read. "Unfortunately, the letter was sent with the Mecklenburg Board of Elections as the return address for the return envelope AND the return address for the actual letter. This was wrong, however unintentional."
In the statement he said he takes responsibility for the mistake.
"I would like to make it clear — The Board of Elections did not send any letter on behalf of the Joel Ford for NC Senate campaign. The content of the envelope was clearly from my campaign and included disclaimers communicating that," his statement said.
"The letter was in no way intended to confuse anyone or imply that the Board of Elections was supporting my effort for Senate. It was intended to make it easier for people to participate in the democratic process."
Kristin Mavromatis, spokesperson for the Mecklenburg Board of Elections, said the board has received four letters that were mailed to residents in his district.
Mavromatis, in an email to the Insider, said all four letters were given to the board by the person who received them, and none have been returned by the U.S. Postal Service.
"The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections does NOT and NEVER will endorse candidates or issues," Mavromatis said in her email. "It is our job to administer and openly and fairly and never show any partiality in our process."
Ford has also sent at least one new voter letter that could be skirting ethics rules set up by the General Assembly's Legislative Ethics Commission. Legislators are allowed to send out letters introducing themselves to newly registered voters in their district.
However, lawmakers cannot send those letters using state resources — including official stationary — within 60 days of an election in which he or she is on the ballot in a contested race. This year's primary is on May 8, meaning the last day to send out the new voter letters would have been before March 9.
The letter provided to the Insider was dated for March 5 —which is before the 60-day window — but it was postmarked on March 12, which is inside the 60-day window. It's unclear which date is used to determine whether it is an ethics violation.
A staff attorney at the General Assembly didn't say if it was an ethics violation, but noted that anyone who wanted to file a complaint about any letters should file a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission. Complaints are not public record, so it is unknown if anyone has filed a complaint against Ford.
Ford was unaware of the mailing until the Insider asked about it: "That is new news to me ... thanks for bringing it to my attention," he said.
That letter also goes a bit beyond the typical letter format from other lawmakers congratulating the constituent on registering to vote, the letter says: "However, t-here [sic] is another step in this process. You MUST VOTE!! Become an engaged voter. Vote in every election. Ask questions. Get involved. And, most importantly, hold your elected officials accountable by staying in contact with their offices and attending local Town Hall meetings."
Ford said the letter is a form letter that he had been approved to use.
A 2007 advisory opinion from the Legislative Ethics Commission said the new voter letters can only "(1) thank the individual for registering to vote, (2) inform the individual who the individual's representative is and the legislator's contact information, and (3) encourage the individual to contact the legislator if the legislator can be of assistance. "
Ford's letter also included his Twitter handle, @joeldford, which tweets out not only legislative information, but also links and has photos of his re-election campaign. He has a second, election-specific Twitter handle, @FordforNCSenate, but it is not the account linked on his re-election website.