As the midterm elections approach, numerous political action committees on both the left and the right are using a new weapon to increase voter turnout — public shaming.
In Manatee County, residents received a mailer from Citizens for a Better Florida — an Orlando-based, Republican political action committee — that identified by name and listed whether they voted in recent elections. The mailer also threatened that another would be sent after Tuesday’s midterm election.
“Every year, thousands of your neighbors failed to vote,” the mailer stated. “We think it’s too important. This year, we are providing the names of your neighbors and their voting record. The next time we send this mailer, we will include information on who voted in this upcoming November election.”
Manatee Elections Supervisor Mike Bennett told the Bradenton Herald that as long as the mailer did not include who the individual voted for, it was not illegal.
“From my perspective,” he said, “it’s trying to embarrass people into voting and also from my perspective, I can imagine how upset people will be to have their neighbors know whether or not they voted.”
In Pittsburgh, residents received a similar mailer, only this one from the Democratic leaning political action committee America Votes.
“Be a Voter,” the fliers stated. “All citizens should have a voice in their government. Our democracy works best when everyone is a voter — including you.”
However, the mailer also included a personalized “Voter Report Card,” which graded residents on their recent voting record and compared their participation in recent elections to their neighbors — by name.
In a statement, America Votes said that it “is vital to stress the importance of voting and encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. We’ve found that using mail that tailors publicly available information about election participation to each voter helps engage those voters who might otherwise sit out in November.”
Don Friedman, a Democratic political consultant in Pittsburgh, told The Post-Gazette that “this sounds like pretty much a gentle rebuke as opposed to a harsh one. I was brought up Jewish [so I know] guilt works. The worst it can do is make me continue not to vote. The best it can do is make me say, ‘I really ought to come out and vote.’”