Alaska group threatens to "out" non-voters

Here’s an interesting strategy you probably never considered in any races in your home district: engage in non-vote shaming. That’s what one GOTV effort in Alaska claims to be up to in response to tepid turnout numbers in previous midterms.

A political group has an announcement for Alaskan voters: get yourselves to the polls on Nov. 4, or face public shaming for not voting, CNN reports.

After voting ends on Nov. 4, the Alaska State Voter Program intends to send out another mailing with a list of who voted and who didn’t. Complaining about low voter turnout, the letter took an aggressive turn. “This year, we’re taking a new approach,” the letter stated. “We’re sending this mailing to you, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues at work and your community members to publicize who does and does not vote.”

How you vote is private, but if you vote is a matter of public record. (Really? Is that everywhere or state by state?) So publishing a list of those who did and didn’t vote might not be a huge deal. But this is a private effort which is clearly putting a lot more work into the data gathering and distribution and a simple bulk download. One woman received a letter containing a list of the names and addresses of her neighbors. Fair enough, I suppose. If you parse out the search results by zip code you could do that without too much muss or fuss.

But another one received a similar list of people who had no other demographic connection to her than the fact that they were all individuals she had friended on Facebook. That one is a bit more worrisome, no? Because it would absolutely require the individual intervention of a data analyst digging up her social media profiles and running the comparison against the voting records database.

Now, they have no way of knowing (allegedly) who you voted for, so for a particular candidate or party to make use of this tool, they would have a hard time in any sort of mixed environment with plenty of liberals and conservatives. But there are always precincts which skew massively in one direction or the other. If you really wanted to rev up your GOTV effort, canvassing your own strongholds with threatening letters like this could actually be effective. But should they do it? Is this really ethical?