Activists use peer pressure on voting history to urge Americans to vote

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 05, 2012 1:55 PM
Activists use peer pressure on voting history to urge Americans to vote

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Groups looking to increase turnout in Tuesday's U.S. elections are using mass mailings that show whether the recipient voted in recent elections and compares the voting record to their neighbors, hoping peer pressure will get people to the polls.

The mailings from Americans for Limited Government and, groups on the right and left respectively, have been sent to millions of registered voters across the United States using public voting records, a move that has surprised some people.

"I've been told it is legal," said Claire Fricke, a Cincinnati, Ohio, resident who received a mailing from Americans for Limited Government, as did her husband. "I guess I just don't know what it is about. I don't understand the purpose for it."

Fricke, 79, said she is a registered independent and the mailing disclosed whether she voted in the two most recent presidential elections and the voting records of four of her neighbors.

Fricke said the mailing incorrectly said she did not vote in 2008, though it correctly listed her husband's voting record. A son living in Indiana received a similar mailing, she said.

Americans for Limited Government sent mailings to 2.75 million people in 19 states "to increase participation in the electoral process," communications director Rich Manning said.

Manning said the group had not received negative feedback from recipients. He did not say how people were chosen.

"We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds," Manning said.

Sally Kristel, deputy director for the Hamilton County board of elections in Ohio, said she had explained to a few voters that their record of casting votes is public.

"We've had a couple of calls about it but no one is frantic at this point in time," Kristel said. planned to send 12 million "report cards" to "progressive potential voters" in key states and congressional districts that compare their voting record to a neighborhood average. The grades reflected votes at the same address in prior elections and did not take into account recent moves.

Kerry Bell, 33, a registered independent from Akron, Ohio, received a mailing last week.

"I voted three times in the last four elections so I thought I was doing well," Bell said. "I've been getting so much mail I really don't look at it anymore."

(Editing by David Bailey and Eric Beech)