Vote-Shaming: Reminding You the Parties Think You Owe Them, Not the Other Way Around

"... So please don't hurt me!"If you’re in New York or North
Carolina, your state Democratic Party is watching you. They want
you to vote, and they’re not above threatening to out you for
either your apathy or your ambivalence to your neighbors. Talking
Points Memo explains the
rather disturbing behavior

New York voters have been receiving very sinister letters from
their state’s Democratic Party. The tone is vaguely Orwellian:
We’ll be watching whether you go to the ballot box.

“Who you vote for is your secret,” the letter, posted by some
recipients on Twitter, says. “But whether or not you vote is public
record. Many organizations monitor turnout in your neighborhood and
are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your

It then provides a quick reminder of when and where one can

“We will be reviewing … official voting records after the
upcoming election to determine whether you joined your neighbors
who voted in 2014,” the mailer concludes. “If you do not vote this
year, we will be interested to hear why not.”

They verified that these letters did indeed come from the
Democratic parties, so it’s not like somebody is trying to make
them look bad. They’re also not the only ones doing it. According
to Talking Points Memo, similar efforts by apparent third-party
groups took place in Alaska, Ohio, and Florida.

As much as I would like to dismiss this effort as a tone-deaf
response to voter apathy at a particularly blah-inspiring field,
TPM spoke to academics who say this sort of social pressure
actually works:

In a
published in 2008, researchers from Yale University and
the University of Northern Iowa reported that they had sent letters
to voters with a variety of messages — voting is public record,
your neighbors will know if you don’t vote, etc. — and what they
found is that among people who received the mailers “substantially
higher turnout was observed.”

“These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social
pressure as an inducement to political participation,” the
researchers wrote. In other words, nobody wants to be embarrassed
in front of their neighbors.

It’s a sad reminder, though, that this vote-shaming results in
these political parties coming to believe that they are entitled to
our votes and that the voters serve them, not the other way around.
It absolves the parties of responsibility for fielding terrible
candidates that fail to inspire. Perhaps such repulsive treatment
of the voting public will encourage more of them to drop their
parties entirely and join the trend toward independent

For the record, I did cast my ballot in the 2014 election here
in California through the mail, but I didn’t vote for a single
candidate, just on the ballot initiatives. I thought my choices
were all pretty awful. and thanks to California’s open primary,
top-two final vote, I had only the choice between two Democrats to
represent me in the state Assembly.

from Hit & Run

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