LUMBERTON — Zain Patel has been reminded to register to vote with plenty of time to spare.
Zain, a Lumberton resident who is 9 years old, recently received a letter with an official-looking “Government Document Enclosed. Do Not Discard.” stamp on it. Zain’s father Pramit Patel considered it junk and set it aside. However, when another arrived with “Second Notice” stamped on it, he opened it up.
Inside was indeed a government document — a voter registration application that was partially filled out in Zain’s name, with his address.
Zain was not trying to vote, never asked to register, and, like most his age, knows who is running for president, but that is about it.
“I thought it was strange,” Pramit said. “I wondered how they got his information. But I didn’t really think anything of it until I got the second notice.”
The letters came from a group looking to get younger people registered to vote — though not people as young as Zain.
The Voter Participation Center is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the electoral participation of historically underrepresented Americans. According to the organization, it uses commercially available residential databases — such as those credit card companies use to send you offers — and match them to the state’s voter file to determine who is unregistered, but eligible. However, sometimes, the center admits, mistakes are made.
“Unfortunately, no state makes available a list of individuals who are unregistered to vote,” the organization said in a statement.
It is a mystery to Pramit how the company got his son’s information. His daughter, who is 8 and lives at the same address, did not receive anything.
“They must have selection criteria, I just don’t understand how he was selected,” Pramit Patel said.
The mailing from the Voter Participation Center states in several locations that “only eligible voters should apply” and offers simple steps to unsubscribe from any further contact.
According to the center’s research, 1.4 million voting-eligible African Americans, Latinos, millennials and unmarried women are not registered to vote in North Carolina. According to the center, it has helped 3 million Americans register to vote and more than 155,000 North Carolinians register during the past decade.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @MikeGellatly