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. Dust Bunny Queen,

    All the problems you ascribe to Student IDs also apply to passports. Yet Voter ID laws find them acceptable. These laws find acceptable those forms of ID most likely to be possessed by those demographic groups most likely to vote Democratic.

    And your response misses the point. The GOP is not claiming to pass these laws in response to students voting outside their home district. In fact, that is not even an issue here. When a student registers to vote, he must provide a place of residence then.

    No, the GOP insists these laws are necessary to prevent a speculative and unproven surge of in-person voter fraud.

    And still my remaining questions stand. Olly surrendered rather than try and respond, and I still await Sandi. You are free to answer them.

  2. Sandi,

    Yes, Student IDs are not proof of citizenship, but, as you surely realize neither are driver licenses and concealed carry permits. Yet the GOP deems them acceptable.

    The only documents showing proof of citizenship which come immediately to mind would be passports, naturalization papers, and birth certificates.

  3. Olly,

    Your response denotes an air of defensiveness.

    Let it pass. There is no shame in not being able to defend the indefensible.

  4. Larche, student IDs are not proof of citizenship.

    Or of legal residency. Or of legal registration to vote in that particular district.. The student may well be registered to vote in his/her home location while living in another State or another location while going to school.

    Student ID is only good for the school purposes. If they are registered to vote in another State they get to vote there and ONLY there.

  5. Larche, student IDs are not proof of citizenship. My suggestion would be a Federal law for Federal elections. States decide how they want their elections. Since every four years we have a Federal election (Pres), the states would probably follow Fed guidelines. Making rules consistent. Recognize the issue of voter ID is about eligibility, not race. Eligibility is simple. US citizen, 18 years old. Years ago, I spent two hours driving home and back to vote, because unexpected work requirements would have kept me from voting before polls closed. My employer insisted I take the extra time to go vote if I wanted to. I did. Early voting or mail voting didn’t exist then. Incidentally, I never went to work before voting again. I vote personally because I don’t trust early voting or mail voting. With the technology we have today, a foolproof system could exist. Don’t think Dems would go for that!

  6. Well! That sure didn’t sound humble. What happened to humility? Humility for thee but not for me?

  7. Larche,
    I can take comfort in many things; recognizing you will never be satisfied is one of them. Thanks in advance.

  8. Olly,

    Well, you can either take comfort in believing yourself to be so much more clever than are we mere humans, or you can help elevate the rest of us to your exalted understanding by simply answering the simple questions I posed to Sandi.

    If your understanding is really so superior as to make this all so clear and obvious to you, I would be grateful if you would eliminate my misconceptions by answering the questions I posed to Sandi.

    I await your answers. Thanks in advance.

  9. Sandi,
    You’re trying to reason with desperate people and it’s not surprising nothing is getting through to them. They need excuses because they will always be victims.

  10. Sandi,

    You have an anecdotal account of a single man in New Mexico being deprived of his vote. And this is your evidence to justify the disenfranchisement of hundred-of-thousands of voters?

    Furthermore, New Mexico has voter ID requirements in place. If your story is correct, you are supporting robbing hundreds-of-thousands of Americans of their right to vote for a system that — according to your own narrative — does not work.

    Perhaps I am missing something. Perhaps you can explain. How does limiting voting hours and ending Sunday voting in minority neighborhoods prevent fraud? How does moving polling places to locations difficult for urban voters who normally walk or take public transportation to vote prevent voter fraud? How does denying college students the right to vote in the district in which they attend school and refusing to accept college IDs as valid means of identification prevent voter fraud?

    When you contact the RNC, you might forward these questions to them, because I cannot imagine you offering a plausible explanation.

    One more question. Some nations requiring voters to present a photo ID makes it easy for the voters by simply placing a photo on each voter registration card — simple, inexpensive, and uniform. Were the GOP honest in their contention that rampant in-person voter fraud exists, despite their utter lack of evidence, they would propose a similar remedy. But they don’t. Why?

    1. Annie, I don’t know what gerrymandering has to do with who votes. But if someone doesn’t care about voting he probably doesn’t know what his vote is about. Let him stay home.

  11. Larche, that’s the plan, to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Don’tcha know?

  12. Sandi

    Were the GOP actually so willing to help those disenfranchised voters acquire the necessary ID forms, why do they not advertise this service? I’ve heard scores of Republicans try to make voting difficult for minorities and students. They’ve moved polling places to hard to reach locations, disallowed the use of student ids as a valid form of identification, eliminated early voting days and shortened hours, voter purges, and on and on.

    However, I am yet to see any effort to help those affected to get ID. If they are indeed so eager to help, why not publicize the effort so voters can take advantage of it?

    By the way, if you actually have proof of those vans of unregistered voters making their way to the polls, please pass that evidence on to the RNC. Despite their insistence of voter fraud being a national plague, they are unable to present any actual evidence. They will be exceptionally grateful for your assistance.

    As long as you have only your suspicions and no evidence, you are supporting the disenfranchising of hundred-of-thousands of Americans based on your opinion.

    1. A man in New Mexico went to vote yesterday and was told he already did 3 days ago. Comparison of signatures proved the fraud. But, nothing can be done. The vote is in the computers. Which shouldn’t happen. Ballots shouldn’t be tabulated until polls are closed. I’ve not heard anything about polling places difficult to reach. There are three in very close proximity to me. If people receive mail from the Dems about voting, why wasn’t an offer to get ID included? I don’t read completely the mail I get from RNC, so I don’t know. I am sending a note to RNC recommending the aid available to get IDs be inserted in future mailings. I have a Dr. Appt. tomorrow near my old polling place. I may stop by to see if my name is still there.

  13. Chip,

    You see no problem arising from bringing hundreds of people to the DMV, all on the same day? Assuming all are able to take that day off work, all have the necessary documentation in hand, all have the money on hand to pay for the required id, all have no family obligations, do you really believe the local DMV is prepared for that onslaught? Hell, navigating DMV lines can be a hassle on the best of days, and you think it will be no problem to bring in hundreds more at one time?


  14. I have no problem with offering transportation for people to vote. If the purpose of the ride is to take unregistered voters, I am suspicious!

  15. I can see no reason why a “Go to the DMV Day” shuttle service couldn’t be organized as easily as an election day service.

    I can, however, see a reason why people who are harvesting votes would prefer the latter.

  16. Larche Osborne-Simmons, the GOP offer to help people get IDs is 365 days a year, not just 11/4! As I’ve said before, if you value voting, you’ll get the ID. If you don’t value voting, why should I care?

  17. Bailers,

    “No one is being robbed of anything. Why can massive operations to transport people to the polls be mounted, but not one to take needy people to the DMV? Which provides a better long term benefit?”

    1) Transporting people to the polls on election day provides a service to a larger number of people, all of whom have the same destination on the same day. Ferrying hundreds people to the DMV would be a logistical nightmare by comparison.

    2) The fact that you offer a solution, albeit an unfeasible one, to the GOP tactics of disenfranchisement does nothing to alter the reality of its being disenfranchisement.

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