Voting Rights Watch: Online registration sites give wrong information for 37 states

In the rush to help new voters register this year, it seems that the McCain and Obama campaigns, as well as at least one other group aimed at young voters -- Rock the Vote -- have been giving out the wrong voter registration information.

What's more, the bad instructions came from the United States Election Commission website -- and voters in 37 states could be affected.

Liz Scott Monaghan at the Huffington Post reports:

Barack Obama's and John McCain's Web sites, as well as Rock the Vote, help users fill out forms which can be printed out and mailed.

They are conveniently addressed to the potential voter's secretary of state, or an equivalent state office. All the potential voter has to do is add a stamp and mail it off.

Problem is, for at least 37 states, it's the wrong address.

In those states, potential voters are required to send their forms to different locations, usually county registrars.

But the US Election Commission website, on which the others are based, gives the state secretary of state's office or equivalent -- at odds with the proper instructions in 37 states.

According to the HuffPost, states with the wrong information include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Voter registration has ended in 19 of those states.

For an example of what could happen, there's Louisiana:

In Louisiana, the Secretary of State's Web site and literature specifically warns against sending the forms there, in underlined letters. It directs that they be sent to the parish (county) registrar.

A Louisiana Secretary of State employee said the forms addressed there would be forwarded to the proper registrar, but there was no guarantee they would get there in time to be processed for the presidential election.

But Obama campaign representatives in Louisiana, who realized the error this week, said they planned to contact the office, hoping to assure that incorrectly addressed forms were released to the proper registrar's offices in time.

As the HuffPost also notes, this error will disproportionately affect young, first-time voters -- who heavily favor Obama.

What to do? Check the status of your registration.