Mailer with voter information sparks concern across state
JANESVILLE If you received a card in the mail that listed your name, your neighbors’ names and their recent voting records, you’re not alone.
The cards prompted complaints from all over the state on Friday, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board.
Magney said it’s legal to acquire and publish the information.
The state is required to sell a statewide list of voters and their voting histories to anyone who requests it, Magney said. The cost is $12,500.
Janesville resident Elizabeth Mullen said she and her husband were upset to receive the mailing.
“They just went and published my personal information to people I don’t know without my permission,” Mullen told The Gazette.
“I realize it’s public record … but I found it too much of my personal information being out there,” Mullen said.
The mailing includes a note to “Dear Registered Voter” which says, in part: “Look at the list below: Are there neighbors on this list you know? Call them or knock on their door before Election Day, and ask them to go vote on Tuesday, June 5. After the June 5th election, public records will tell everyone who voted and who didn’t. Do your civic duty—vote and remind your neighbors to vote.”
The mailing goes on to list the recipient’s name, address and whether he or she voted in November 2008 and November 2010. The same information is provided for 12 neighbors.
The information does not say—and could not say—how those people voted, of course.
“I’m all for getting out the vote, but I think that’s too intrusive,” Mullen said.
The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund apparently sent two mailings. The one Mullen received does not urge a vote for one party or the other.
Another version says: “Scott Walker won in 2010 because too many people stayed home! Two years ago, more than half a million Wisconsinites who supported Obama (in 2008) failed to vote in the 2010 election. And that’s how Gov. Scott Walker got elected.”
Magney said voting records have always been available to anyone who wanted to view them at municipal clerks’ offices, but a statewide list was established in 2006.
Making the list public ensures honesty and fairness, Magney said. People can review the list, and if they see that a voter is someone who has died or is under Department of Corrections supervision after being convicted of a felony, they could alert authorities of the voting fraud.
“We understand that during these times that people can be a little bit sensitive about their information being out there, but these are public records,” Magney said.
“That, I don’t have a problem with,” Mullen said. “But going out and telling people whether I voted or not, to almost complete strangers … and to have someone come knock on my door … I think that’s just a little over the top.”
Magney said a lot of political mailings go out all the time, from groups with a variety of agendas. Some groups send out absentee-ballot applications ahead of elections. Often, the mailings are sent to people from this same list of voters.
The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is an arm of the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which has been active in the state for many years, and is registered with the state, Magney said.
The Madison-based organization, which often supports Democratic candidates, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. The voice mailbox of the executive director was full.