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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. At least one organization says the errors were related to a database issue, 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 from a group called Voting Futures, 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.

Some voters have reported receiving identical texts from other organizations targeting minority voters, such as Black Voters Matter or Voto Latino.

Voto Latino released a statement 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.”

It is unclear whether the same vendor is involved with the other organizations that appear to be behind the texts. 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.

Voting Futures Trust, another of the groups that appears to be behind some text messages, claims to be a voting activism organization committed to “ensuring every eligible voter is registered, informed, and active.”

The group has little online presence other than a website with no contact information and a Facebook page that has been flooded with reviews accusing them of sending fraudulent text messages like those sent out to Kansas voters on Sunday.

The texts come as thousands of Kansas prepare to cast their ballots in midterm elections.

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.”

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Zach Perez