In the days leading up to the 2014 Midterm Election, our former colleague Dan Seligson became part of a growing trend. In his mailbox was an official-looking document detailing his voting history and comparing his voting history to his neighbors’. While the details about his voting history weren’t correct, Seligson, like many others, was none-too-pleased about the attempt to “vote shame” him. “…[F]rankly, it wasn’t an incentive to vote. It made me lash out at the organization that thought this was a good idea,” Seligson said. “I was motivated alright, motivated to tell them how much they insulted me.” Seligson isn’t alone. Since 2008, “vote shaming” or social pressure as academics and others prefer to call it has become an increasingly popular tool in the GOTV toolbox. During the 2014 election cycle, there were news reports — typically about angry voters — from Alaska to Maine to Florida and lots of places in between about voters receiving “vote shaming” materials.
According to Christopher Mann, director, of the Academy of Applied Politics and Assistant Professor of Political Communication; J. Patrick Gebhart Professorship at Louisiana State University, campaign professionals began using social treatments back in 2008 after research began to circulate about its effectiveness, but it has taken a while for the use to spread. Mann said it’s taken a while to catch on because political and civic groups were initially cautious about backlash against the organization sending this kind of mailing. In recent years, organizations have become more willing to take this risk – or learned that the risk is minimal.
Access to a voter’s history is a by-product of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which required states to create statewide voter registration databases making it easier for campaigns and others to gain access to voter information in one database instead of reaching out to each jurisdiction within a state. “I choose to vote in everything. But I have the right not to vote,” Seligson said. “To me it’s a duty. But to remind people that whether or not you vote is public record raises a lot of privacy issues. Do they know for whom I voted? I know that they don’t but it might confuse others. “
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.