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Group Threatens Alaskan Public: Vote, Or We’ll Tell Your Neighbors

A political group has an announcement for Alaskan voters: get yourselves to the polls on November 4, or face public shaming for not voting, CNN reports.

After voting ends on November 4, the Alaska State Voter Program intends to send out another mailing with a list of who voted and who didn’t. Complaining about low voter turnout, the letter took an aggressive turn. “This year, we’re taking a new approach,” the letter stated. “We’re sending this mailing to you, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues at work and your community members to publicize who does and does not vote.”

One Alaskan woman reportedly received the official looking letter and was frightened to find the names of 11 other people she knew listed, including their names and addresses, and whether or not they had voted in the past three elections. Another voter realized that the only thing she had in common with the 11 people on her list is that they are Facebook friends.

For a long time, voting records have been public, and groups are starting to take advantage of that information to shame and pressure people into participating. Liberal organizations like MoveOn and America Votes have run similar campaigns, and in Florida this year, a group called Values are Vital actually sent voters a report card, grading both recipients and their neighbors. Only a change in the law would block these groups from mailing out public information.

“People have a visceral reaction to these types of mailers,” Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University told Alaska Dispatch News. “One reason is they may not be very aware that their voting history is a matter of public record.” But regardless of the reactions, campaigns like these appear effective, since voters want to be viewed by their neighbors as engaging in pro-social activities, according to Panagopoulos.

The mailing may have the consequence of helping Republican Dan Sullivan unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Begich by raising voting rates, which in midterms are typically far below rates in presidential election years.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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