(AP) The only "agent of change" Princess ever supported was the person who freshened the water in her fishbowl. So election officials in Chicago's northern suburbs want to know why voter registration material was sent to the dead goldfish.
"I am just stunned at the level of people compromising the integrity of the voting process," said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, a Republican, who said she has spotted problems with nearly 1,000 voter registrations this year.
Beth Nudelman, who owned the fish, said Princess may have landed on a mailing list because the family once filled in the pet's name when they got a second phone line for a computer.
"There was no fraud involved," said Nudelman, a Democrat who supports Barack Obama. "This person is a dead fish."
The paperwork sent to a "Princess Nudelman" likely came from the "Women's Voices, Women Vote" project, which sent nearly 1 million mailings to Illinois households in August using a list that mistakenly included some pets, said Sarah Johnson, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit group that encourages single women to vote.
The mailing list, purchased from a vendor, included names from warranties, magazine subscriptions and other sources, Johnson said. The group attempted to screen out obvious pet names.
"Fido's not going to be left on there, but if a cat is named is Polly, she may be," Johnson said. Princess could be a person's name, she insisted. "I went to high school with two Princesses."
Nudelman said the only address on the registration card was the Lake County clerk's office. She said she wrote election officials a humorous note explaining why the fish was ineligible to vote.
The Illinois mailing generated 63,500 returned voter applications, Johnson said. Applicants were instructed to fill in a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number so election officials would be able to validate their identity.
"We obviously don't want to add more work for any election official," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, our goal is same as theirs: To give as many people as possible the chance to make voices heard in our democracy."
Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the mailing generated numerous complaints from residents throughout the state.
Lake County election officials contacted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler. The sheriff's office and state's attorney's office were "already working on it," she said.
The McCain-Palin campaign has lately raised questions about the voter registration practices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN is accused of submitting false registration forms for some of the voters it has registered. The FBI has joined nearly a dozen states in investigating.
Women's Voices has worked with ACORN in the past, but the August mailing "has nothing to do with" ACORN, Johnson said.
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