Threatening mailers circulated by a right-wing advocacy group in Prince William County that contain misinformation about voting have drawn the ire of residents and election officials.
The flyers, distributed by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Look Ahead America and operating under the name “Virginia Voter Assistance,” erroneously told voters the government could “seize their assets,” bank accounts and vehicles if they chose not to participate in upcoming elections.
The organization also falsely told residents who don’t vote that as a result they could lose Social Security income, Medicare benefits, unemployment benefits, child custody rights and concealed carry permits.
Prince William County Director of Elections Eric Olsen released a statement on Friday saying residents have called his office concerned about the mailer. Acknowledging the false information contained in the flyers, Olsen said he contacted Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth and Look Ahead America leader Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign staffer, to relay residents’ concerns.
“Should you decide not to vote, you can make that choice knowing that no government official is going to show up at your house the following week to revoke your medical coverage, seize your assets, or take your family pet as a result,” Olsen said. “That is not how voting works, and we would counsel organizations to be considerate and careful in how they message voters.”
The nonprofit responded in a statement defending the mailers and calling on Olsen to recant his statement.
“Virginia Voter Assistance’s efforts in Virginia are entirely truthful and within the law, and Registrar Olsen would make better use of his time helping voters cast their ballots rather than attempting to suppress our voter turnout effort with obviously false claims,” the group said.
The nonprofit began last month sending mailers and door-knocking across the increasingly Democratic county to reach conservative voters who may have skipped out in recent elections. Specifically, the organization is targeting in and around Manassas in areas Braynard described as “disaffected patriotic Americans of rural and blue-collar backgrounds” who are typically not fully college-educated and often work in manufacturing, trades or agriculture.