A letter intended for nonpartisan voters was sent to 234,000 permanent absentee voters instead, an Alameda County Registrar of Voters spokesman said Monday.
The letter explained to voters who did not choose a qualified party that the American Independent Party and Democratic Party would allow them "to cross over and vote for their candidates (except for central committee members) in the Feb. 5, 2008, presidential primary election."
But the letter created a fair amount of confusion among some who received it, including Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington a registered Democrat who said he thought the letter meant hewouldn't be allowed to vote in his registered party.
"I knew it was a mistake for me because I've been a registered Democrat since 1972," Worthington said Monday.
Still, he wanted to figure out what happened, he said.
"I've been getting e-mails and phone calls from people stressing out thinking this is a right-wing plot to kick us out of the Democratic Party," Worthington said.
Adding to the confusion was the letter's postmark, which reads "nonprofit org. U.S. postage paid."
"Usually when we get things from the Registrar of Voters it doesn't have that (stamp). I've never seen that on something from the government," Worthington said.
The postmark indicates a bulk mail discount, said Registrar spokesman Guy Ashley, who chalked the mistake up to human error.
Ashley said a clarification letter will go out to the 234,000 voters later this week.
"We are really sorry for the mistake," he said.
He said an employee in the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office apparently sent the wrong list of voters to an out-of-state printer that processes bulk mailings for the Registrar.
"People who should not have received the letter did, resulting in much confusion," Ashley said. "We regret the confusion and will be sending a follow-up letter explaining the confusion."
Only about 60,000 voters should have received the letter explaining voting procedures for those who declined to state their party affiliation, he said.