Last minute electioneering tricks are nothing new, so perhaps this particular maneuver won’t come as too much of a shock to our more jaded observers. Supporters of Democratic candidate Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s First District have been going house to house and leaving some door hangers reminding people to vote. Nothing wrong with that message, of course, but these particular pieces are being described as Orwellian because of the implied threat they contain. Rather than simply saying you should get out and vote, the hangers have a cheerful message reminding the resident that records of whether or not you voted are public. Gee… that’s not creepy at all, is it? (Free Beacon)
Democratic candidate Scott Wallace, who is running against incumbent Republican representative Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania’s toss-up 1st Congressional District, is distributing door hangers in the area that oddly inform voters that “who you vote for is private, but whether or not you vote is public record” and adding that the campaign “can’t wait to see that you voted on November 6!”
The door hangers used by the Wallace campaign were posted to Twitter by Albert Eisenberg, a digital and communications professional in the Philadelphia region. Eisenberg is working with the American Unity PAC, a pro-LGBT conservative committee.
“Also this Scott Wallace door hanger is Orwellian and creepy,” Eisenberg wrote on Twitter.
Here’s the tweet referenced above, including a picture of the door hanger.
Also this Scott Wallace door hanger is Orwellian and creepy pic.twitter.com/rKbs5JzZ24
— Albert Eisenberg (@Albydelphia) November 4, 2018
What this really boils down to is a case of preemptive vote shaming. Wallace is clearly targeting Democratic voters with this maneuver and basically saying, if I lose and you didn’t come out and vote for me, it’s your fault and we’ll let all your neighbors know.
This is bad on a couple of levels. We’ve seen similar stunts before from both parties and it’s never a good thing. First, issuing threats to your own voter base on the eve of the election probably isn’t all that smart, nor does it inspire people to support you. But even more than that, it’s simply wrong on a fundamental level. The right to vote is assured to all eligible citizens (along with some non-citizens and legions of the dead in certain areas). But having the right to vote is not the same as having an obligation to vote. Nobody is required to vote and those with little interest in doing so probably aren’t following the news and don’t have much to contribute to the public debate anyway.
Frankly, I’ve never been comfortable with having the voting rolls (to say nothing of the voting records) made available. Sadly, such data is priceless to politicians, so elected officials are unlikely to be interested in shielding it in the interest of privacy. In an ideal world, each state would compile the total number of registered voters in each geographic region and add up how many are registered to each party (in states where that’s done) and how many independents there are. There’s really no need to publish anything beyond that except to satisfy the nosy needs of the media and campaign workers.