Yesterday we looked at a story of vote shaming in Pennsylvania which was nothing short of creepy. Apparently, that disturbing trend is spreading even faster than I’d feared. Another story popped up covering both New Jersey and New York where somebody was engaging in the same tactics. One Garden State voter reported receiving a letter which not only implied that her voting history could be made public but was very specifically crafted for her, including a list of the years when she voted and didn’t vote. (CBS New York)
Ellen Feldman of Closer, N.J., was one such voter who got a mysterious “Where have you been?” mailing that is showing up in millions of mailboxes.
“I didn’t understand why they were doing this, and I also didn’t understand who was doing this,” she said.
The letter suddenly appearing before the midterm elections, customized to show the recipient’s specific voter history – particularly the elections years missed and how it compares others in the respective state.
Several other residents in both New Jersey and New York received the same sort of customized letter. This picture shows just how creepy it was.
At least this time we know where the garbage mail is coming from. It’s a group called the Voter Participation Center based in Washington, D.C. According to their president, Page Gardner, the group has sent out 839,000 of these letters in New Jersey and 1.6 million in New York. When CBS asked Gardner why they were shaming voters, she replied, “Informing someone of their voting records is really inspirational. We’re not shaming anyone, we’re encouraging them to vote.”
That’s some incredible spin for you. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind about this organization. Generating customized letters including the specific voting records of more than two and a half million people isn’t something you could just do by hand. They clearly have a database with all of this detailed voter information and the software to mine it and generate the letters. But that means they have something else as well. They have the party affiliation of all of those voters too.
Here’s what I’d like to see from the Voter Participation Center. How did they determine which 2.5 million people to send letters to? If it’s not massively skewed toward one party or the other you’ll be able to knock me over with a feather. And even if it’s totally random, it’s still a disgusting practice. As I wrote yesterday, there needs to be some sort of lid on this detailed voter information that’s being made available to the public. And if there’s any public shaming to be done, Page Gardner should be the one being shamed. For the record, you can supposedly unsubscribe from their “services” online at this link, assuming it actually works.