How do I get lefty organizations to stop using voter report cards?
November 13, 2016 8:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty upset by a get-out-the-vote tactic that I see Democrat-aligned organizations using to shame voters. How do I get these organizations to stop using voter report cards and especially voter report card post card mailers equating people's address with their voting history?

In 2012, I received a 'name and shame' mailer from that claimed--using my full name on a oversize postcard--that I hadn't voted in previous elections and should consider voting in that one.

I faithfully vote in primaries, special elections, recalls, and of course presidential elections. MoveOn used my address as a proxy for my vote and I'd only lived in that address for a year at that point. So the data was inaccurate but still personally upsetting.

At the time I was in North Dakota and there's no voter registration there so I put it down to that and decided not to say anything to MoveOn.

Then this year Color of Change, an organization dedicated to getting out the black vote, decided to go for the same tactic. Complete with a postcard that says "What if the kids who look up to you knew you didn't vote?" and a closed mailer that lists my supposed voting record (with a claim of no vote in 2012 and 2010).

Color of Change made the same mistake that MoveOn did and assumed that because I didn't live in this state/this address in previous elections, that meant that I didn't vote in those previous elections. Besides the personal upset, I'm also apparently part of a research study that Color of Change is conducting in my neighborhood. Their data is going to be fairly inaccurate!

A quick google tells me that this is a bipartisan tactic with some basis in psychology. Fine. Its methodology needs some tweaks.

What are my options for convincing left-leaning organizations that this tactic as it stands is more likely to piss voters off than embarrass them into voting?
posted by librarylis to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can mention that this tactic is most likely to backfire with women and with trans people, because people in these groups are most likely to have changed their names. Not only will the data be inaccurate for them, but it also demonstrates that the group is ignorant of (or indifferent to) women's and trans people's experiences. Assuming that names stay the same through adulthood is privileging cis/male norms.

Women are also more likely to move to a new city at least once [pdf], and poor people move up to twice as often as rich people.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:07 PM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

Perhaps point out that simple human decency demands that we refrain from publicly humiliating people, especially when the information is so error prone?

Granted, the "simple human decency" argument doesn't tend to move people these days.
posted by she's not there at 9:14 PM on November 13, 2016

The same thing happened to me because I had moved states, but I forgave it because state voter databases don't talk to each other, and I want turnout to be high.

Unfortunately for your mailbox the evidence of its efficacy is overwhelming, in spite of complaints. There are "softer" versions of voter report cards that generate fewer complaints by, for example, inviting voters to correct their records that may be just as effective.

But the overall concept is one of the single most cost-effective ways of increasing voter turnout that has ever been studied, and the backlash doesn't seem to do much -- if anything, people who are angry about inaccurate records aren't going to boycott the election over it, they might even be more likely to vote...
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:53 PM on November 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

These groups are certainly acquiring this info from other public sources, but keying on addresses is obviously going to generate errors. I've received these bogus notices but don't really consider paper mail to be public.

Ensuring you're registered and up to date with the local Board of Elections ASAP after a move might cut down on some of this. I, however, have never notified a current BofE when I've moved away from their "jurisdiction". I have no idea what triggers BofE's to remove people from their lists, if anything.

This is one of those things involving info that has been available to the public all along but sitting in filing cabinets. Moving public info to online storage creates opportunities for new uses many find inappropriate.

I've also received mail, presumably from conservative groups, listing bogus registration advice and incorrect polling place locations and hours.
posted by justcorbly at 3:43 AM on November 14, 2016

This might sound obvious, but...have you called those organizations to say how much you don't like it?
posted by Miko at 10:32 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you want them to stop sending them to you or stop sending them altogether? If it's to you, call their main number and ask to be removed from all communications. Any reasonable organization will comply with this.

If it's in general, I think that's going to be tough. 1. Orgs that do voter contact know that people complain about it in any form, and it doesn't stop them from voting. 2. As HUMC says, this is probably the most effective form of communication and as we saw in the election, the effects of key groups not voting can be disastrous.

You should definitely contact the organization and let them know you're upset, because organizations do take that seriously in the aggregate. Phone is best.
posted by lunasol at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Boy this is so gross. Unsubscribe from any emails you get from them and let them know your reason
posted by gt2 at 6:15 PM on November 14, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the thoughtful responses, all! I had to step away from election stuff for a bit but I did faithfully read your answers and appreciate them.

Special thanks to mbrubeck for mentioning some points that I will raise in my call to this organization and to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College for pointing out the studies on methodology that I was looking for in my initial google and missed. It's helpful to understand the why so that I can thoughtfully engage with them about how they might change things up.
posted by librarylis at 2:01 PM on November 27, 2016

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