Also see Women’s Voices Women Vote (Nonprofit)
The Center for Voter Information (CVI) is a left-of-center voter registration and outreach group that is permitted to take positions on candidates that works alongside its nominally nonpartisan and charitable “sister,” the Voter Participation Center (VPC). While both organizations run general get-out-the-vote campaigns, the CVI runs targeted voter outreach campaigns for candidates. Both organizations are left-of-center, and the VPC’s political spending exclusively goes to supporting Democratic candidates or opposing Republicans. CVI shares its 501(c)(4) tax status with another voter registration activist group, Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF), which the organizations treat as separate groups but are a single entity.
As of September 2020, CVI and VPC have generated 939,000 registration applications and 2 million vote-by-mail applications for the 2020 election.  These applications are generally targeted towards demographic groups which tend to support the Democratic Party, and have been extensively criticized by state-level officials.
All three organizations share a common founder, liberal activist Page Gardner.
Voter Registration Initiative
In early 2020, the Center for Voter Information launched a nationwide voter registration drive particularly targeted at unmarried women, young people, and racial minorities, all demographics known to favor Democratic and liberal candidates. By February, the CVI sent out 9 million mailers with registration forms, postage-paid envelopes, and letters urging potential voters to vote in the 2020 election. According to an NPR report, many mailers were sent to already registered voters, citizens too young to vote, and dead people. Additionally, local electoral officials across the country received complaints from citizens confused by who sent the mailers and their possible connection to local and state governments. 
As of October 23, 2020, CVI had committed to sending 340 million pieces of mail leading up to the 2020 general election. This included sending ballot applications as well as voter registration forms. The initiative focused on over 20 battleground states. Critics argued that some of the forms contain errors or prefilled information, preventing individuals from successfully registering and influencing votes. Additionally, the mail was not always understood to be from a non-government organization and confused voters. 
Leaked Memo Reveals Partisan Intent
In 2019 Vox reported on leaked memos from Mind the Gap, a California super PAC which advises wealthy donors on cost-effective methods for supporting the Democratic party. The memos revealed that Mind the Gap was recommending CVI and its affiliate, the Voter Participation Center (VPC), as primary funding targets for benefiting the Democratic party during the 2020 election, despite the fact that CVI and VPC are supposed to be nonpartisan. 
According to the memo: “The most effective investment Democrats can make in the 2020 elections is in early voter registration targeting minorities and other underrepresented groups in the ‘rising American electorate.’ If well-designed and well-executed such efforts are three to four times more effective than the next best available tactic for increasing net Democratic votes in November 2020.”
The memo also specifically applauds CVI for being one of the most cost-effective organizations in the U.S. when it comes to producing Democratic votes, saying: “Two sister organizations stand out for their efficacy, as established by hundreds of independent, randomized control trials … They are the Voter Participation Center (a 501(c)(3) tax deductible charity) and the Center for Voter Information (nonpartisan but not tax deductible).” 
The memo also recommends that donors contribute to an organization addressed only as “Everybody Votes,” a pseudonym for of a vast network of nonprofits surrounding the Voter Registration Project, one of VPC’s donors.
Absentee Ballot Request Mailers
Throughout the summer of 2020, the Center for Voter Information mailed absentee ballot request forms to millions of Americans within Democratic-leaning demographics in competitive states.  The forms were already partially filled out with voter information, including names and addresses acquired from state offices.  In North Carolina alone, 1.8 million mailers were sent, causing confusion among many residents who thought the forms came from the state government. The North Carolina State Board of Elections publicly criticized the CVI for eroding confidence in elections by interfering with government electoral affairs. 
KARE 11, a local news station in Minnesota, ran a story clarifying the legality and source of the mailers after numerous inquiries from viewers. Though the outlet confirmed the legitimacy of the mailers, it echoed recommendations from state officials to use the state’s online registration forms instead. 
CVI sent out 2.3 million mailers in Florida. Local offices were so overwhelmed with complaints that numerous officials emailed CVI asking them to cease their activities. Leon County supervisor of elections Mark Early stated, “what I would most like to see you do would be to just stop any more contact with our voters and go away.” He also added, “we will handle the fallout from your latest screw up, as we do multiple times each year, it seems.” 
Pennsylvania voters received 1.5 million mailers, resulting in 65,000 mail-in ballot requests and 90,000 new voter registrations. 
By the end of the 2020 election cycle, CVI (along with executive director Tom Lopach’s other group, Voter Participation Center) had sent ballot applications to 15 million people in swing states, nearly one-third of which were returned. 
Partisan Messaging Training
CVI (as Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund) has published partisan messaging strategy (archived here) for liberal politicians targeting “minorities,” “millennials,” and “unmarried women” for get-out-the-vote operations in the 2018 midterm elections, produced using research from two left-wing research groups, Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps (founded by Democratic campaign operatives James Carville and Stanley Greenberg).
The document highlighted how the Republican Party was “vulnerable” and the Democratic Party “very strong” on issues including Medicare, Social Security, gun control, and healthcare access, providing explicitly anti-Republican “Democratic messages.” Excerpts from the document include: 
Message: Stop Short-Term for Rich Threatening Our Future
Stop politicians and their huge tax-giveaway to the big corporations and the richest 1% which will blow-up and endanger our future. We need to invest in education and infrastructure, not cut them. We need to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not threaten your hard-earned retirement.
Attack: Enough Political Games on Heath Care Costs
Donald Trump and Republicans promised [STATE] better, cheaper health care. Instead they supported plans to massively cut Medicaid, raise prices on older workers, and eliminate protection for pre-existing conditions. Drug and insurance companies even got a new tax cut even though they are still raising prices on us here in my state. Enough politics and broken promises on health care.
X Supported cuts to Medicare & Social Security to address the rising federal budget deficit.
X Supported the efforts to cut Medicaid, raise premiums & rates for those with preexisting conditions.
X Opposed universal background checks and an assault weapon ban.
Emotional Response Frames:
“I’m shocked” “I can’t believe it”
STOP SHORT-TERM FOR RICH THREATENING OUR FUTURE:
My state needs a plan for a better future, not more short-term political deals and shortsighted cuts to the things we need. We need to invest in education and infrastructure, not cut them. We need to protect Social Security and Medicare, not threaten your retirement with more tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
FED UP WITH RIGGED ECONOMY:
I’m fed up. Our economy and politics are rigged against hard-working people here in my state. Corporate donors are spending unlimited sums supporting my opponent to get their way. I will say no to big money and trickle-down economics (SPLIT: and make sure the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes) so we can help people with the rising cost of health care, childcare, housing and student debt and protect Social Security and Medicare.
BREAK THE POLARIZATION:
Like you, I am done with all of the polarization dividing our families and gridlocking out government so nothing good gets done. I will be an independent voice for people here in my state and will work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to fix our problems. That is how we will help people with the rising cost of health care, childcare, housing and student debt and protect Social Security and Medicare.
Controversies and Criticism
Mailing Fraudulent Absentee Ballots
In the months leading up to 2020 election, CVI and its 501(c)(3), the Voter Participation Center (VPC), were widely criticized for mailing out partially pre-filled absentee ballots and voter registration forms in multiple states.
Fairfax County, Virginia, published a warning “about an inaccurate and potentially misleading mailing from the Center for Voter Information” in August 2020, noting that the group had mixed up the City of Fairfax with neighboring Fairfax County: 
This group is mass mailing pre-filled, absentee ballot applications to county voters without their request—and the mailer includes return envelopes to send the application to the City of Fairfax, not Fairfax County.
“This mailing is causing great confusion and concern among voters who have been contacting our office,” said Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott. “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”
The mailing is also confusing voters who have previously submitted absentee ballot applications themselves, Scott added. These voters are worried that their applications were not received, leading them to think they need to apply again [emphasis original].
The Virginia Democratic Party wrote a public letter to the chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections complaining that CVI’s absentee ballot mailers in Virginia “contain several errors,” confusing “Fairfax City and Fairfax County, Franklin City and Franklin County, Richmond City and Richmond County, and Roanoke City and Roanoke County.” According to the letter, CVI’s mailers also “contained incorrect middle initials or names for an unknown number of voters,” including that of the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Voter Protection Council. 
The Washington Post called CVI a “voter registration group with a history of sending error-ridden mailers” and criticized the group for having “again sown confusion in Virginia, this time tapping into concerns about mail-in-ballots sparked by President Trump’s repeated allegations . . . of election fraud.” The Post noted that while CVI and VPC are officially “nonpartisan,” “both organizations appear to be more aligned with efforts to defeat the president than with his allies.” 
Archived examples of VPC/CVI absentee ballot mailings have been identified by the Capital Research Center in the following states:
- Pennsylvania (archived here)
- Georgia (archived here)
- Wisconsin (archived here)
- North Carolina (archived here) – identified by Catawba County, NC as “an example of a third-party pre-filled request form that is invalid”
Accusations of Voter Suppression
In 2008, Women’s Voices Women Vote (WVWV), now CVI’s 501(c)(3) “sister,” the Voter Participation Center (VPC), was identified by NPR as the source of a mass of allegedly illegal automated calls which were received on the day of the Democratic presidential primaries in North Carolina, and seemed to target African American women, suggesting that they register to vote and informing them that a packet with more information would be sent out to them in several days. The calls arrived past the deadline to register to vote in the primary leading to accusations of “voter suppression,” as critics claimed the calls were sent out to confuse voters in African American communities who had already registered to vote which would damage Barack Obama’s standing against rival Hillary Clinton, as these communities were major supporters of then-Sen. Obama. The calls were traced back to WVWV, an organization made up largely of Clinton supporters headed by Gardner, a prominent Clinton ally.  WVWV denied the allegations.
In his 2012 book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, left-leaning journalist Sasha Issenberg identifies WVWV (now the Voter Participation Center, CVI’s 501(c)(3) “sister” nonprofit) as pretending to engage in nonpartisan voter registration and mobilization activities that were, in fact, partisan and intended to aid Democrats win elections: “Even though the group was officially nonpartisan, for tax purposes, there was no secret that the goal of all its efforts was to generate new votes for Democrats.” 
The IRS strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Violation of this rule “may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
Voter registration and education activities “do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity” so long as they are “conducted in a non-partisan manner.” According to the IRS, “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.” 
Ties to the Clinton Foundation
WVWV has many ties to the Clinton family. Gardner, in addition to being a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton, worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. Bill Clinton’s former chief-of-staff and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, was a founding member of WVWV’s board, and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, Maggie Williams, also formerly held a leadership position in the organization.  
WVWV’s financial integrity has been called into question on multiple occasions. In 2006, the organization paid $800,000, 16 percent of its annual budget, to Gardner’s husband Ron Rosenblith’s company, Integral Resources Inc. for phone services, raising accusations of a conflict of interest.  In addition to this, the organization paid large sums to the companies of five other of its leaders, totaling several million dollars.
Covering Up Spending on Elections
In 2012, when CVI was called the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF), the group was criticized when—after telling the FEC that it spent $250,000 on ads supporting a Democratic senator—it reported to the IRS that it did not spend any money on politics. 
CVI CEO Tom Lopach is a longtime Democratic campaigner and strategist. From 1999 to 2007, Lopach served as executive director of the Committee for a Democratic Majority, a Democratic-aligned political action committee. For the following two years, he worked as the national finance director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. After a year as a senior vice president at the Export-Import Bank of the US, Lopach served as chief of staff for Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) from 2010 to 2014. From 2014 to 2016, Lopach returned to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as executive director. Lopach then went back to the private sector for two years to work for Subject Matter, a consulting firm. In 2019, Lopach became a senior advisor for the short-lived Democratic presidential candidacy of Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT). In March 2020, Lopach became CEO of the Center for Voter Information. 
CVI founder, board chair, and president Page Gardner is also a longtime Democratic operative. Her first campaign work was with Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) 1980 presidential run. She eventually specialized in Democratic outreach to women voters, particularly strategies to target unmarried women whom she believed played key roles in presidential elections.  In 2005, Gardner founded the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a left-of-center voter outreach group targeted at unmarried women. In 2003, Page founded CVI, Voter Participation Center, and Women’s Voices Women Vote (which shares tax status with CVI). 
In 2018, CVI’s total revenues were $19,038,970, its total expenditures were $14,950,597, and its net assets were $4,674,696. That represents a major increase from its 2017 finances, when CVI reported $1,146,302 in total revenues, $1,031,584 in total expenditures, and $712,578 in net assets. 
|The Voter Participation Center: Financial Overview|
|Year||Total Revenues||Total Expenditures||Grants Paid||Net Assets|
Known Donors to Center for Voter Information
Known grants to CVI in 2018 include: 
- $756,000 from Green Advocacy Project
- $500,000 from League of Conservation Voters
- $112,000 from Human Rights Campaign
- $50,000 from Tides Foundation
- $50,000 from Sierra Club
- $30,000 from California Community Foundation
The Center for Voter Information makes “independent expenditures” for or against candidates each election cycle. In the 2020 election CVI spent $533,820 in support of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (D-DE), and no funds for other candidates. 
In the 2018 cycle, CVI spent almost $93,000 exclusively on anti-Republican activity. The two largest campaigns were against Kim Young (R-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), both of whom unsuccessfully ran for House seats in California. 
In the 2016 cycle, CVI spent over $120,000, with almost $42,000 supporting the unsuccessful Senatorial primary of Donna Edwards (D-MD), and the rest going to oppose Donald Trump.  CVI’s single largest expenditure was of almost $250,000 in 2010 in support of the successful Congressional campaign of Chellie Pingree (D-ME).