Before Election Day, many Mainers received an ominous postcard in the mail that claimed to show whether their friends and neighbors had voted in past elections, and included a veiled threat that they too could be exposed if they didn’t do their civic duty and vote. The threatening mailers angered some Mainers, but exactly who sent them remains a mystery. It also is a mystery – even to state elections officials – how the group apparently got hold of the state’s confidential voter database, access to which is limited by law. “It certainly had a pungent odor to it,” said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, whose office received dozens of complaints about the letter, mostly from registered Republicans, who appear to be the primary recipients. “You can tell that whoever did this did not want people to know who they are, and for obvious reasons.”
The tactic used in the mailer, known as social pressuring, has been used in Maine and other states by political organizations trying to drive voters to the polls. However, the threatening language of the mailer, and the opaque nature of the group that sent it, reveal how data about Maine voters is collected, sold and used by all kinds of political organizations, and even by government agencies such as the immigration service.
The mailings also show how political strategists are continually finding new ways to exploit “keyholes” in campaign finance and communications laws in Maine and other states.