We Have Ways Of Knowing If You Vote: Political Letter Directed At Non-Voters Leads To Accusations Of Intimidation

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

voteA New York based political committee has been accused of sending what many see as an intimidating letter to party voters who have chosen not to vote in previous elections. Whether this is considered peer pressure, inducing worry, or encouraging others to vote has not diminished the controversy and shows an insight into some of the tactics political parties use to generate more votes to their cause. Letters such as this raise questions as to the ethics of shaming voters to vote. The right not to vote is considered a lawful option of the electorate.

The New York State Democratic Committee mailed a letter last week to voters reading:

Dear [voter]:

Our records indicate that you are registered to vote in Kings County:

Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is a public record. Many organizations monitor turnout in your neighborhood and are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your neighbors.

Here is some of the information you may need to vote:

We will be reviewing the Kings County official voting records after the upcoming elections to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014. If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.


The letter reportedly included a voter report card grading a voter’s participation. Reportedly, these notifications were mailed out to one million registered Democrats who did not vote in previous mid-term elections. The grades consisted of: excellent; good; fair; and incomplete.

Included was a phone number for Election Protection, a nonprofit, nonpartisan voting resource organization. Election Protection spokeswoman Marcia Johnson-Blanco said the organization had nothing to do with the letter, but has received 400 calls from voters concerned about it.

The political committee, chaired by Governor David Patterson, defended the letter calling it a common practice throughout the country.

In a deflection, Peter Kaufman, a spokesman for the committee stated:

“This flier is part of the nationwide Democratic response to traditional Republican voter-suppression efforts, because Democrats believe our democracy works better when more people vote, not less. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is they don’t want people to vote and we want everyone to vote.”

The Associated Press reports:

“The letter relies on peer pressure and the possibility of surveillance to encourage turnout – a tactic that research shows is highly effective compared to more costly and time consuming get-out-the-vote efforts like phone calls and door knocking, according to Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University.

The practice is becoming much more widespread, and similar letters have been reported this election year in Alaska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Colorado and Iowa.

Panagopoulos noted that while they succeed with many voters, “these heavy handed social-pressure messages do generate considerable backlash.”
‘Shaming people to vote works,’ he said. “It’s remarkably effective. … It’s not enough to ask people to be good citizens. What you have to tell them is that their actual behavior is being monitored.”

Such a system does however lend credence into the notion that, like the political tactics used in the mailing of such letters, some of the practices that could come light if voter choices are ever made public, and if in the immediate sense should the right to vote or not to vote be not be subject to public records requests.

By Darren Smith

Washington Times
Associated Press

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

172 thoughts on “We Have Ways Of Knowing If You Vote: Political Letter Directed At Non-Voters Leads To Accusations Of Intimidation”

  1. “On Monday, Senate Republicans rushed through a redistricting plan that would overhaul Virginia’s 40 Senate districts to give the party a better chance to gain seats. That effort awaits action in the House of Delegates.”http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2013/01/24/430096e6-6654-11e2-85f5-a8a9228e55e7_story.html

  2. Sandi,

    I should add that you misjudge me. I know a great many conservatives, the vast majority of whom are fine, ethical people. I remain in close contact with some of the men with whom I served over three decades ago, men I would even now trust with my life and my savings. Some of them are exceptionally conservative. I trust their morality and ethics, I love them as if they were members of my family, but we differ on politics. I am sure you too are a good ethical person, but, even so, you are in error on this topic.

    Just because I disagree with a person does not lead me to think them bad. I do not judge a person’s ethics by political or demographic yardsticks. Knaves come in every political persuasion, every religion, every race, and every nationality, without exception.

  3. Sandi,

    From our brief discussion, I am certain you are a good person who would willingly disenfranchise no one. I likewise believe that to be true of most conservative voters.

    Sadly, not every member of the GOP leadership shares your ethics and sense of fairness. The right to vote is as close as American comes to have a civil religious duty, and to see so many Americans robbed of a right that children have died to defend of is distressing.

    Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of this GOP tactic is its pointlessness. The GOP did not need to resort to racist laws to win these elections. 2014 was the Democrats “Perfect Storm.” 1) They had to defend an insane number of seats compared to the GOP. 2) The party holding the White House always suffers in the last off-year election. 3) GOP demographic groups are far more likely to vote in off-year elections. 4) The Democrats fielded a number of weak candidates.

    The GOP has lost the support of virtually every majority group. Black, Jewish, Latino, Asian voters all vote Democratic, and all were offended by GOP tactics. So were most single female voters and young college-educated Americans.

    Following the Civil War, the Democratic sought to reassert and maintain its hold in the South by reverting to racism and legal manipulation of the ballot. It took nearly a century for the party to find it ethical and moral footing. Let’s hope the GOP proves wiser.

    1. Larche, where to begin? Who are the people who have been robbed of their right to vote? Instead of arguing that point, how about using the next two years getting an ID for every eligible voter? Republicans won big last night. According to you without Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asians, women, and young adults. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, was reelected last night by a 31-point difference. You don’t win that big with no one in your stated groups voting for Kasich. Every incident of possible fraudulent voting I’ve seen has been Democrats. I’ve not heard any claims of fraudulent voting by Republicans. So instead of complaining about disenfranchised voters, start helping them now. I think you should spend some time with Republicans, where you’ll find people who want every eligible voter to vote. There is no attempt to rob people of their vote supported by the Republican Party. We are not evil people. We want our Senators and House Representatives to represent the people who sent them to DC, as promised. When McConnell gets the 300+ bills passed by the House and sitting on Reid’s desk with no action taken, you will see how a true leader gets things done!

  4. Sandi,

    If this Darren Brooks person voted in ten different places under his own name, how would Identification prevented his fraud? One person having multiple registrations in various precincts reflects a failure by the Secretary of State’s office.

    Tell me, how many legitimate voters voters are you willing to disenfranchise to prevent one case of voter fraud?

    1. Just tonight there were cases of today registration in New Hampshire. Lawyers on their way to review validity. I want all eligible people to vote and no fraudulent. We are a capable people who can get this right.

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