Letters try to shame people into voting

abaird@newsobserver.comOctober 30, 2012 

North Carolina households are receiving letters this week chastising people for not voting.

But the groups sending them are going over the line, in some people’s minds, by printing the names and addresses of their neighbors who did not vote in past elections.

State elections director Gary Bartlett said the letters appear to have dropped over the weekend or on Monday, and that around a dozen people phoned in complaints on Monday.

“A lot of people who have called feel kind of intimidated by it,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got to do our diligence to figure out if it’s illegal or not, but I can say it’s unusual, different and near the line.”

“Why do so many people fail to vote?” ask one of the letters, sent to Democrats and Republicans by the Sanford-based Political Consulting Group. “We’ve been talking about the problem for years, but it only seems to get worse. This year, we’re taking a new approach.”

The “new approach” attempts to publicly shame people. Using publicly available voting records, people receiving the letter get a list of their neighbors and whether they voted in 2008 and 2010. It does not show party affiliation.

The letter says it will follow up with an updated chart after Nov. 6.

A similar letter was distributed by Virginia-based Americans for Limited Government.

Joseph Hernandez of Raleigh said his 98-year-old grandmother was wrongly listed as a non-voter in one of the letters. Hernandez said Acosta voted in New York through an absentee ballot.

“How dare they put out people’s names and addresses like that?” Hernandez asked. “In this society we live in, it can be dangerous. You never know what people are going to do. ... My (grandmother) is one of the oldest people voting in this country. She doesn’t deserve this.”

Neither of the groups could be reached for comment, as phone lines associated with the organizations appear to be out of service.

Baird: 919-829-4696

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