Political organizations use “report cards” to guilt voters to the polls

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Club for Growth Tennessee

Courtesy of a Tennessee resident who received this mailer

When Chuck Erdo received a sealed letter in the mail that “graded” his voting record, he threw it out. Erdo lives near the Delaware River, in the district represented by Conor Lamb. (D-Pa.)

The letter came from a group called You Should Know Pennsylvania, whose website identifies it as a project of Forward Majority Action, a liberal super PAC.

Sometime later, Erdo received a similar piece of mail. This time it was a postcard, so his voting information and “grade” were prominently displayed.

“It had my name on it, my mailing address,” Erdo said in a phone interview with OpenSecrets. “It had my voting record and it said my score was a C. The rest of your neighbors all got Bs and you got a C. And I’m thinking ‘this is baloney. That’s my voting record.’ And here it is, open to who knows how many folks.”

Erdo isn’t alone. In Tennessee, Rebecca Brown, who describes herself as conservative, received a mailer which not only graded her voting record against her neighbors but called them out by name. (All received As and Bs.) This mailer was paid for by CFG Action Tennessee, a conservative super PAC that has spent over $200,000 against Democrats in the 2018 cycle. CFG Action Tennessee is affiliated with Club For Growth.

“I just got off the phone with them and let them have it,” said Brown via text message. “I am apparently one of many who have called.”

Similar mailers have been reported in North Carolina and Florida. The North Carolina Republican Party recently sent out mailers which announced, “your voting history is public record” in angry-red text. Similar to the mailer received by Brown, the North Carolina mailers showed voting records for the person receiving the letter and for their neighbors.

In Seminole County, Florida, election officials have encountered so much confusion from Floridians who received the letters and thought they were from the county elections office that they set up a website to help voters cross-check where the letters come from. Many of the Florida mailers come from the Center for Voter Information, a D.C.-based nonprofit that spent more than $90,000 on the 2018 cycle as of its last report in June. The Center for Voter Information paid $84,756 to a direct mail company called Mission Control in 2018. Mission Control’s website boasts “Creative targeting to increase effectiveness.”

“Our approach has been successful because, in a day and age when voters are inundated with more advertising than ever before, ours stands out and makes a more lasting impression,” the site says. “We do more than produce ads. We build and strengthen brands using creativity, repetition, cutting-edge targeting and message discipline.”

The Center for Voter Information also paid $7,962 to the Pivot Group, whose website claims their “boldness jumps out of crowded mailboxes.”

In most states, anyone can view records showing whether or not a person voted in a given year. Virginia has slightly more restrictive laws. There, only political entities like candidates, PACs, political parties and nonprofits can request voting records. Said political entities can use those records to help mobilize voters, but they are forbidden from using the records to engage in practices that could be considered intimidating.

This practice is not unique to the 2018 election cycle. MoveOn.org, for instance, launched a massive mailer campaign assigning recipients grades based on their turnout back in 2012, and in 2016 the Arizona Republican Party sent out over 10,000 voter “report cards” of their own. As far back as 2006, political scientists experimented in Michigan with political mailers that listed their voting histories alongside their neighbors’ and threatened to distribute an updated version once the election was finished. Turnout spiked in their experimental group.   

All of this is off-putting to Chuck Erdo, who normally splits his ticket, but doesn’t plan on doing so this election day.

“If there are people who are gathering this information and use it and feel so free as to throw this out for everybody and their brother to look at, what else could they use this information for?” Erdo said. “I will vote, but when I researched it and saw that this was a Democratic operation… This time I said, ‘to hell with that, I’m voting straight Republican. Stick it in your eye bud.’”

The post Political organizations use “report cards” to guilt voters to the polls appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

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