More on voter shaming

In an earlier post, I expressed my discomfort with getting a mailing stating how many times I had voted in the past five elections and the average for my neighborhood. But Darren Smith says that in some areas mailings are a getting far more specific, to the point of being vaguely intimidating. He quotes from one such letter:

Dear [voter]:

Our records indicate that you are registered to vote in Kings County:

Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is a public record. Many organizations monitor turnout in your neighborhood and are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your neighbors.

We will be reviewing the Kings County official voting records after the upcoming elections to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014. If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not. [My italics-MS]

If that wasn’t bad enough, Stephen Colbert highlights some cases where the mailings go even further and actually name you and your neighbors and how often each voted in past elections. But despite this high pressure tactic, voting this year was the lowest since 1942, during the World War II.

You can’t shame people into voting. You have to give them a reason to vote.

(This clip aired on November 3, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. Ben Finney says

    But despite this high pressure tactic, voting this year was the lowest since 1942 […] You can’t shame people into voting. You have to give them a reason to vote.

    True. But conservative lawmakers can certainly rig the system so that voting by certain classes of people is disproportionately blocked (harsh voter-ID laws, inconvenient location of polling stations) and even denied (aggressively pursue convictions for some classes of people, knowing that convicted felons can’t vote).

    Reduction in voter percentage is surely at least in part a result of a more-successful campaign to disenfranchise a certain percentage of the populace, whatever the motivation of those people to vote.

  2. says

    My son got one of those too. It said that he has voted in two out the last four midterm elections and that his record was so-so (or some such word.) Of course he’s 22, so he’s only been eligible to vote in two out of the last four elections. The kid has voted in every election since he turned 18 and the Democratic Party mails him a postcard to tell him he’s a loser. Oy.

  3. says

    But conservative lawmakers can certainly rig the system

    All lawmakers rig the system. That’s why they do the “money doesn’t affect elections” dance or the debates that only present two parties dance or any of the countless tricks that nullify democracy.

    If the parties actually put people on the ticket that the majority might vote for, the US would probably overthrow the election, even if it was its own, the way it has in dozens of other countries.

    People who vote for the lesser of two evils should be ashamed of voting for someone they know is a corrupt liar beholden to corporate interests who almost certainly will be willing to continue violating the NPT and engaging in wars of aggression. Way to go.

  4. lorn says

    Well of course elections are almost always between two evils because:
    1) it is the nature of politics to seek to expose the weaknesses of your opponent, or have someone do it for you. Humans being human, there is always a dark side to everyone. Inevitably selecting one human over another is a matter of selecting the lesser of two evils.

    2) Most decisions made by adults are made on the basis of the lesser of two evils. Buy a car and you are investing in a machine carrying a huge environmental burden. Yes, you will try to figure which one carried the lower burden, that will still serve your needs but in the end none of them is benefiting the environment. You are quite literally choosing the lesser of two evils.

    3) Yes, children like to talk about things being good or evil but adults know that good and evil are often the two sides of the same coin. Idealist speak of wanting to be for something. But in the adult world choice is usually a matter of finding something, or someone, that will get he job done without the various costs negating all the good they might do.

  5. astrosmash says

    complicated issue. I’d like to see non-voting become a movement ..Just ‘sitting it out’ alone as a form of protest is kind of lame. But a non voting movement would involve it’s members registering to vote and making clear that the votes are available when certain issues are dealt with, or certain candidates are promoted. It’s more of a long-game strategy that would have to bear some losses before it took effect. You have to figure out how to actively make your non-vote mean something in order for non-voting to be an actual thing besides being lazy.

  6. Ed says

    If people feel that they can’t in good conscience vote for any mainstream candidate, there are always minor parties as a protest vote. It sends the message of yes I bothered to register and show up just to give the finger to the system.

    Plus, these votes are counted too, and it decreases the winner`s(and tame opposition`s) percentage of the overall vote. I usually vote for the major candidate who is strongest(for lack of a better word) on healthcare and other social services, education, pro-choice, gay marriage the rights of immigrants and other anti-discrimination issues. Though I have voted for minor far left candidates , whether I agreed with everything they stood for or not, when I found the alleged liberal such an obvious fake that I couldn’t stand it.

    I don’t understand how people can see both major parties as equivalent on the above mentioned issues. Yes, it is horrible that there is no viable party seriously advocating reducing income inequality thorough progressive taxation, abolishing the death penalty and excessive imprisonment, having guaranteed support for those unable to work, adequate subsidies for poor families, support for privacy rights, and a massive decrease in military spending and interventionist action.

    But that’s bad enough without homophobic policies, anti-science crusades, abortion clinics shut down, and other avoidable evils.

    The only way I could see not voting as a form of protest that would get a definite message across would be for people who are registered now to not register in their new district if they move and if they aren’t moving, ask to have their names removed from the list of registered voters.

    If this is denied, take some kind of legal action arguing for their right to have their name removed as an act of protest. The ACLU would probably help. When refusing to register at a new address, they could state that they have voted in the past, but are choosing not to now, and explain why. If this happens enough, it might get some kind of notice in the media. This isn’t a path I would choose, but I’d certainly empathize with the sentiment behind it.

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