If you don't vote, your neighborhood may find out about it


Voting records are public information and some groups are hoping to use this information to "vote shame" people into heading to the polls Tuesday.

Letters from organizations have been arriving in Minnesotans mailboxes in the last few weeks and on many of them is the recipient's name as well as some of their neighbors, listing who has voted in recent elections and who hasn't, KSTP reports.

This "vote shaming" tactic, which is meant to create social pressure and shame the recipient into voting, has been reported on by various publications in the last week or so, including the Wall Street JournalRaw Story, the Portland Press Herald and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wait, how do they know if I voted?

Voting records are public information in every state except Virginia, ThinkProgress says.

In Minnesota, records can be obtained from the state Secretary of State's office for a small fee. Records don't say who someone voted for, but does list contact information and voting history. Minnesota state law says information on registered Minnesota voters may only be used for purposes related to elections, political activities or law enforcement.

In some cases, these vote shaming mailings go a step further and threaten to send another voter "report card" after the election to tell neighbors whether you actually cast a ballot, USA Today notes.

Both DFL and GOP-leaning political groups across the country are using this tactic this year to push people to the polls. The letters in KSTP's story were from America Votes and a registered Minnesota voter told BringMeTheNews she'd received a similar letter from The Voter Participation Center.

In September, Politics.mn reported on "vote shaming" by the Republican party. A voter received an oversized postcard in the mail that highlighted recent close elections for Democratic candidates, and said "public records show that you don't always vote."

The "vote shaming" tactic has proven to work in some cases – these mailers have been effective in some competitive races, increasing voter turnout by as much as 8 percentage points, the Wall Street Journal notes.

A Yale University study that analyzed the success of vote shaming says: "Results suggest that mailings disclosing past voting behavior had strong effects on voter turnout and that these effects were significantly enhanced when it disclosed an abstention in a recent election."

"Vote shaming" has been a tactic for the last few elections – it's described in the book "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns" and was recently used in Wisconsin in 2012 – although that generated some controversy, Politics.mn notes.

Online shaming

But this year some organizations are taking vote shaming to a different level by using social media. USA Today reported that there's a Facebook app for vote shaming in Oregon. The "DidTheyVote" app lets users check their Facebook friends' names against the state's voting records to see whether they voted.

And in Iowa, some Facebook users saw sponsored advertisements from the Republican National Committee that said, "Iowa will release the list of individuals who voted in this election." Below was an aerial view of a neighborhood with checkmarks that show who voted GOP, ThinkProgress reported, even though that information is not public record.

This year people around the country have shared their displeasure with vote shaming, referring to it as "voting police," or like Big Brother looking over your shoulder.

Here's a sampling of what people had to say on Twitter:

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