Organizations Try To Shame People Into Voting By Revealing How Often They & Their Neighbors Voted

from the that's-just-going-to-piss-people-off dept

It’s election day. While your actual ballot is (supposed to be) secret, a lot of people don’t know that whether or not you voted at all is public information. A few weeks back, On the Media covered some ways that campaigns try to get out the vote and looked at some research suggesting that letters to people with a “voter report card” showing when they’ve voted in the past was a somewhat effective way of shaming people into voting. An even more extreme example was given as well: a letter that specifically shows how often your neighbors have voted. In the piece, OTM producer Chris Neary noted that while such things were effective in the lab, people shouldn’t be expecting such letters for real, because, while they may be effective in getting out the vote, they also freak people out on privacy grounds, and no campaign wants to risk freaking people out:

And, by the way Brooke, you’ll never get that last letter. Campaigns hate to send out anything that prompts virulent hate mail in return, and one of those researchers got some of that mail.

Except… Neary has now posted an apology blog post after some OTM listeners reached out to share exactly the kinds of mailers discussed. While campaigns might shy away from such tactics, apparently third party organizations read the exact same research and took it to heart — as they’re a lot less worried about hate mail:

First, listener Rachel Lieberman got a voter report card mailing from (She notes that the report card isn’t accurate, she just voted at a different address. Here’s hoping it doesn’t lower her citizen GPA.)

And from listener Taylor Maxwell, exactly the sort of letter I went out of my way to claim she probably wouldn’t get. It’s from Americans for Limited Government. Names and addresses redacted, or else we’d be co-shaming.

So, yes, this tactic appears to be in use across the political spectrum, and yes, it’s likely mostly serving to creep people out… though it may also get them to go out and vote…

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Comments on “Organizations Try To Shame People Into Voting By Revealing How Often They & Their Neighbors Voted”

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Zakida Paul says:

This is an outrage that goes against what the people who have gone before have done for everyone. They did not fight for the right to vote, they fought for the right to choose whether or not we want to vote. Politics has forgotten that, and so has the public if I’m honest.

I get it all the time on the Internet where people say that if I don’t vote I have no right to complain. This is bollocks. If I decide not to vote, it does not mean that I am apathetic or that I could not be bothered. It just means that I have done my research and I know that the ‘choices’ I am given are not choices at all. Quite frankly, under our current ‘democracy’, I see voting for candidates (no matter who they are) as an example of the turkey voting for Christmas.

The greatest freedom is the freedom to make my own choices. Sadly, politicians hate people doing that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It would help if candidates were actually interested in governing for the benefit of the whole country…

It would help if more people were less interested in cheering for the red team or the blue team.


Vote for change: If they’re in office, vote them out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

‘vote for the other guy’

It’s election day TODAY.

If you want to build culture… well, good luck and all that. You’re not going to build culture between now and when the polls close. We go to the polls with the politicians we’ve got?not the politicians we wish we had. And face it, they all suck. Every last one of them.

So the choice NOW boils down simply: ? Status-quo or change. Take your pick.

hmmmm says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I don’t envy you Americans.

You are basically down to choosing between getting a brick to the face and getting kicked in the jaw.

Either choice is going to hurt, status-quo or not.

your being to kind ac.

its more like voting for a rapist who will do the deed and then kill you on the third day. and a torturer who will do his deed and then kill you on the third day. and you know what? america is the one to blame for it. they will vote sure. but will they keep the guy in line? will they keep congress in line? people will talk on there high horse when it comes to voting people in but where are they when the guys turn against them? america has breeded a culture of permissiveness with politicians. and you know what? after a while voting is just worthless. becuase the next guy knows he can get away with anything just like his predeccesor becuase he knows nobody will step up and the very few that do he knows he needs to apply a little pressure.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“That just feeds into the problem by creating a culture of ‘vote for the other guy’. “

Actually, it creates a different problem if it is followed religiously. That being that you have no real stability in the government.

However, for the short term, it would serve notice to those elected, of who they actually work for.

What is really needed is term limits and no corporate money in the system, but the courts have pretty much ensured that won’t happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

However, for the short term…

Take the U.S. Congress: This Congress had the lowest approval rating ever. It dropped to 9% last year, and is now around 15%. The overwhelming majority of Americans do not believe that the institution is performing acceptably.

Yet, today, the majority of Senate races will go to the incumbent. The majority of sitting representatives in the House will be returned to that dysfunctional institution.

The only reasonable conclusion: You, the voters who vote for the same old same old ?you are insane.


Seriously. Bat-shit crazy: Wanting a different outcome, but doing the same old thing.

Or you’re just lying. You say you want different results, but you keep on doing the same thing. Maybe you don’t really want different results. Maybe you want a dysfunctional Congress?that’s sure what you’re voting for.

If you’re not insane ?if you the voters are just lying to everyone? well, I guess it’s not so bad that you have lying politicians to represent you.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I am but one man. I voted for exactly 0 incumbents in the Federal Elections and only 3 for state and local.

The problem is there all the choices suck! The other problem is most people only care about one thing themselves. They don’t care about the country, just what can you do for me, and then they vote for them knowing full well it was a bucket of lies.

Just Another Limey (profile) says:

Re: None of the above

I always wanted to see on the ballot card a tick-box for “None of the above”, as a way of conscientiously opting out, recognising that;

a) I’m not lazy and I did turn up to vote

b) I don’t believe any of the candidates (or parties) are worth voting for.

The only option (Britain) is to vandalise our card so it’s recognised in the system as “spoilt”, implying that the voter is an imbecile.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: None of the above

I think everyone should have a ballot cast with a default of “None of the above”. If you want to change that, then you have to show up and vote, but None of the Above should still be available for any choice on that ballot. With this approach, I still think a candidate should have to get more than 50% of the votes to win. Meaning, if <50% of voters don’t vote at all, then it would be impossible for a candidate to win. In that case, another election will be held every month or so until a candidate wins, with all candidates in that election dropped for at least one election.

This approach has several benefits:
* A candidate actually has to appeal to more than 50% of the population to get elected.
* Removing candidates forces a refresh of candidates, positions, and platforms.
* Even though there will be a seeming non-ending election process, even the billionaires funding the campaigns (whether PACS, superPACS, mainstream media, or individuals) will eventually run out of money, thus removing a lot of money from politics.

In addition, we should get rid of first-past-the-post and move to elections more like Instant-Runoff-Voting.

Miff (profile) says:

Re: Re: None of the above

At least in my jurisdiction, you can vote “none of the above” by submitting an unmarked ballot. This is for people that only care about a handful of issues and only want to vote for the ones they care for. (For example, yesterday I only voted for President, Congressman, and on a handful of state laws; I didn’t vote for any local state positions.)

BC says:

Re: Re:

Sadly, the biggest outrage is your perspective of this nations greatest liberty – to vote. Agreed, there are times that neither candidate is ideal, and the primary candidates may not be what you want in the presidential office. You have your right to vote or not, and as you say – you have done your research. Good for you, as many have not and go with what they think is popular.

Still, your perspective is mis-guided and skewed. You don’t vote, forget about complaining – you have made the conscious choice to give up the right, free and clear. This is your to exercise, but not yours to change how the country is run. There is a right-in for you to put in whomever you believe is the best candidate. If you don’t vote, fine. I don’t want to hear you complaining for the next 4 years. You don’t like it, move to another country.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This whole “you did not vote so you can’t complain” argument is such bull shit. Yes I can complain and I will. I don’t want either of these guys in office. My voting WILL NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT ONE OF THEM WILL WIN. So yes, I could go and vote and write in someone or some bull shit. It will not change the fact that one of these two guys will win.

So I am excising my right to not vote for either of them. I will also exercise my right to be vocal about how they are worthless and going to destroy this country, not that there is much of it left to ruin at this point.

Glitch says:

Re: Re: Zakida Paul

You do realize that Election Day is not just about voting for Team Red or Team Blue and frequently (if not always) has State and City issues to vote on.

Saying you don’t vote because you don’t like the choices you are given for representatives is BS when the public issues that are also on the ballot affect you or those around you directly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Zakida Paul

Also this entitlement attitude of, you people must bring me the choices I want and if you don’t I’ll whine in the hope that will persuade you to do what I want and only what I want.
Easy choices with no downsides, don’t ask me to think things through that’s your job.

There aren’t really politicians and the electorate, there are active politicians and inactive ones with a large proportion of the inactive ones complaining they don’t like what the active ones are doing but who still can’t be bothered to do anything themselves.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Zakida Paul

That is where you are wrong, I’m not going to vote, and my opinion does count. Sure it does not “officially” count as for who will win, but that does not matter as my vote would not count even if I did go cast it. I would not vote for either guy who has a chance.

It is about like the stupid duck and cover commercials from the cold war. Yeah, you can get under your desk and pretend, but your just wasting your fucking time. Really very similar thing here, sure I could go vote, but it is not going to save me from the hell that is coming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Zakida Paul

I’m not going to vote, and my opinion does count.

Yes: In almost every race, in almost every gerry-mandered district?if you don’t vote, then you are expressing an actual preference for the incumbent.

Do you need a link to the statistics? Or maybe you’ve got some kooooky argument why the statistics don’t really mean what they say…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Zakida Paul

Turd or shit sandwich? You decide. Is that really a better option? One that makes my vote magically mean I have the right to complain?

I posit that those who choose between a turd and a shit sandwich are the ones who have no right to complain as they know neither option will do anything to give them the hopey changey feelgoodiness they crave, yet they gladly gobble it up – commenting on the subtle taste differences as they choke it down.

Drizzt says:

One wonders if that matters at all

Maybe it doesn’t even matter, whether people go to vote or not. At least one could get that impression, when reading

If your system is really that broken, it’s hard to fathom how American politicians still try to tell developing countries how democracy works…

Anonymous Coward says:

Why are these groups so concerned about quantity? They should go for quality instead.
Instead of browbeating tons of random people into voting haphazardly, they should try to support the minority who are willing to invest time and effort into researching candidates and issues; the people who take voting seriously.

Zakida Paul says:

Re: Re: Re:

“But the challenger is less invested in the status-quo.”

Wow, that is patently untrue. Here is a little secret – when the challenger/opposition make promises about reform, they are lying to gain support. The reform never comes. Politicians promised banking reform, where is it? Several generations have been promising reform of tax loopholes, where is it?

Promises made during an election are as empty as the souls of the people making them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Promises made during an election are as empty as the souls of the people making them.

Either you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore?or you’re a sucker content with what’s going down.

Either you do something about or you just talk: Bitch and moan in blog comments.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Hmm, you forget the option of, bitch and moan in blog comments while waiting for things to hit critical point. Sadly I think this country is quickly headed for that point. We have not had a good all out war on American soil lately after all. Good revolution could be interesting.

Not saying I plan on trying to start one, but looking around at how things are and how they keep going… I do not think we have much longer before this government becomes unstable and starts to fall.

hmmmm says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Promises made during an election are as empty as the souls of the people making them.

Either you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore?or you’re a sucker content with what’s going down.

Either you do something about or you just talk: Bitch and moan in blog comments

its not that people dont care its very few other people do. you will see hundreds of people put a ballot in a box but thats not the important part. the important part is when the guy gets in and people are supposed to keep them in line. and you will see those same people either not caring. THATS the problem.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The challenger really does want reform, they really do want to make a difference, they’ve (hopefully) worked on a local level for the people in their designated region and done some good things and now they want to take that to the rest of the country.

So they win, they get elected, they have a parade and make some speeches, everybody cheers. Then they get to move into the important building – where they will lead from and bring their reform.

Except what happens is on the first day, they are brought into a little room with a small gathering of the highest ranking unelected officials of each department.

Then they sit the new incumbent down and they say “Listen, this is how it’s going to be, this is how we do things… and if you try to change anything *these people here* won’t cooperate… or *this information here* will find itself in the public domain and *these people here* will die/be pissed/revolt”.

That’s how I imagine it. That’s why people who promise change don’t bring it. Think about the first day of your new job. It’s relatively easy to walk in and see where things are going wrong, however it takes a strong will to then turn around to all your new co-workers and tell them they’re all doing it wrong… Especially if there’s a highly politicized and hostile atmosphere.

Now think of walking into the top job in the country where every single thing you say is going to be recorded, analyzed and possibly (most likely) used against you at some date if you fire the wrong person or make the wrong decision.

Personally I think a large part of the problem is simply this fact that it’s treated like a job, rather than service. A leader should have the will power to make unpopular decisions if they know it’s going to benefit the whole. Of course if you view it as just a job, you’re going to do what you can to save it. And when you’re trying to save your job you’ll be focused on that rather than serving; you’ll be willing to make compromises and hide things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Now think of walking into the top job in the country…

The presidential race is not competitive in most states.

The majority of people in this country have no realistic chance whatsoever of influencing the presidential election.

So ignore the red team leader. Ignore the blue team leader. You can’t affect that outcome. But you can affect the outcomes at the Senate level, at the House level, in the state legislature, at the county, in your city or town, on the local school-board…

That’s why people who promise change don’t bring it.

If you leave the current teams in place, there’s no hope at all of any change. If you toss all the bums out, then there’s perhaps a chance you’ll get something worse?but also a chance you’ll get something better. No matter what, you’ll at least get something slightly different.

You want a chance? Or do you want no chance at all?

NullOp says:


Whether I vote or not is my business. Voting is still a right. Just for those who don’t know, a right is something you can do or not do without asking anyone’s permission. Rights are not required actions! The greatest crimes in the election process is the electorial college and the “Two Party” system. Both of these exist because our leaders think we, the people, are really too dumb to vote “properly”. I would recommend everyone vote Libertarian, if for no other reason, to send Washington a message that their days are numbered as they should have been all along.


Why bother?

I got one of those cards. I am a “fair” citizen, seeing as I missed one election. This is where my money goes, mailing this stuff. And it IS my money, and yours since we are the ultimate source of the campaign donations.

So I can vote for more spying, whistleblowers going to jail, bogus insurance that doesn’t work and a VP who sleeps with the MPAA and calls me a thief, “plain and simple.”

Or I can vote for a sociopath meglomaniac who will solve all our problems by ending Roe v. Wade, dirty pictures and sex. We can all wear white dress shirts, “turn back to god” and obey our betters and trust him ’cause he’s got a PLAN.

This wasn’t why I worked for decades. Still, there is nothing they can do that Bush has not already done. So flip the coin folks. Tomorrow we can sit back an watch Jonathon Stewart crack wise on the abusrdity of it all. Could be worse. We could be living in Greece. Or Egypt.

Deirdre (profile) says:

Darn, I voted early and have been tossing campaign flyers without looking at them. Saturday I had so many in my post office box that I couldn’t get my mail out of the box without ripping some. Now I’ll never know if my neighbors know I have a perfect score for showing up at the polls.

Oops, maybe they do know. I voted early because all of the election day poll workers are my neighbors.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I wish to know is why are detailed records of voting being kept past the pony that the election is settled and why are they being made available to political campaigns? It is one thing to record the turnout percentage, but is entirely different thing to keep every-bodies voting record, even if it is just that they turned out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your vote doesn’t count. You and your neighborhood do not elect the president.

That’s why they count electoral votes. That’s who elects the president. Most of them are not bound to vote how their citizens voted as a majority in their state. It’s a dog and pony show for an election.

Honestly? I don’t like this choice of which is less evil. It’s an evil no matter who gets in as they are already bought and sold.

When was the last time you heard both parties agreeing on the budgeting or at least trying to compromise? When was the last time you heard of a drive to fix the nations’ infrastructure without which this nation would die given it couldn’t transport food and necessities without them? It’s more important to them to fight over ideas than to do what they were elected to do and see to the welfare of the country.

Last time this country’s politicians were this divided was right before the civil war. That doesn’t bode well for this country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The “voting is a public process” defense of these shame-on-you report cards misses the point. If the organzations sending these cards based them on a valid interpretation of accurate information, your argument might be interesting. But the information used to create these report cards is wrong or misinterpreted for many people: for example, new voters, folks who have moved, and the deceased. It is irresponsible to publicly deride private citizens without first getting your facts straight.

Anonymous Coward says:


This divided? You’re joking right? How you could clai the electoral college is a dog and pony show when they do vote with the popular vote in their state and not notice that the political ‘conflict’ between the two major parties is just a dog and pony show I have no idea. Obama and Romney are more similar than any two opposing candidates since before Bush Sr. was in office.

MikeVx (profile) says:

More electoral clutter...

I keep telling people that they need to vote for who they think is best suited for the job, and I always get that they don’t want to waste their vote. How is it not a waste if you vote for someone you don’t think is qualified just so that you voted for the winner?

As far as I am concerned, any vote for the two big parties is the wasted vote. Unless the big boys feel threatened, the overall condition of the US will continue to deteriorate, because there are no differences of any significance between the parties.

I say, if you can’t figure out someone from lesser parties based on what you can learn, which the big players also make as difficult as possible, then pick some smaller party candidate at random and vote for them. If the entrenched players are not deprived of political oxygen, they will continue to screw things up.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I learned from yesterday's election.

For the Presidential race, my vote doesn’t count. I fully understand how the Electoral College works, but it never hit home just how badly broken that system is until yesterday. It might have made sense back in the days it was developed, but it doesn’t now. There are so many problems with it and I’m so frustrated that I’m not going to go into a long-winded explanation. Suffice to say it sux.

The end result is I doubt I’ll bother with that part of the ballot anymore. (Maybe I’ll write in Mickey Mouse or Darth Vader.)

My vote only counts for Congressional and local elections, so that is where I will concentrate my efforts from now on. On the plus side I can ignore all the hype and BS (is that redundant?) around the Presidential races. That should free up some time, so I’ll call that a “win”.

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