The N.C. Republican Party is wrongly telling voters that President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plan “to publish and share your voting record with your neighbors after this election.”
The mailing – which features the frowning faces of Reid and Obama – then lists the voting record of the recipient and four neighbors.
“The Republican Party wanted to make you aware of this, so Reid and Obama don’t have the chance to embarrass you for staying home on election day,” it says.
Party spokesman William Allison promised to issue a statement on the mailer Monday afternoon but did not do so. He did not dispute that his organization was behind the piece.
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The mailer incorrectly says that The News & Observer reported on Obama and Reid’s plans. The paper never reported any plans by Obama, Reid or other Democrats to publish voting records.
The paper did, however, report on similar mailings from the N.C. Democratic Party and Sierra Club that attempt to shame supporters into voting. The Democratic Party’s missive tells voters that “public records will tell the community at-large whether you vote or not,” and says the party might call nonvoters to ask why they skipped the election.
Andrew Keathley, a registered Republican in Duplin County, said he received the GOP mailing and was concerned that it claimed he’d skipped the 2012 presidential election. He voted in both the primary and general election that year, state records show.
“I don’t really think it’s any of their business,” he said, adding that fellow senior citizens might feel pressured to vote because of possible embarrassment by Obama and Reid.
“I’m not that sort,” he said. “I’m more riled up.”
Keathley didn’t recognize the names of neighbors printed on his copy. Election records show the people listed live about two miles from his home in the rural Eastern North Carolina county.
While the voter shaming messages often upset the recipients, studies show they work. Researchers at the University of Northern Iowa have found that mailers showing the recipients’ voting record lead to a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in turnout over past elections.
The Republicans’ approach – listing the names and records of neighbors – is even more effective, the study found. Turnout among recipients of that message increased by 8 percent.
Both parties have been heavily focused on turnout initiatives this year. So far, it’s working: more North Carolinians cast ballots during early voting this year than in the last midterm election in 2010.
Neither party is saying much about the voter shaming method. After the N.C. Democratic Party’s mailer made news, first vice chairwoman Patsy Keever issued a statement that didn’t specifically address the tactic.
“We will continue to look for every way possible to empower, educate and encourage voters for the remainder of this election cycle,” Keever wrote.