Residents’ voting histories showing up in neighborhood mailboxes

Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 05, 2012

Virginia Beach, Va. - On this quiet Virginia Beach street, something that showed up in the mailboxes caused quite a stir.

Neighbors received a 'vote history audit' showing, by name, who voted - and who did not - in recent elections.

And the letter promised to let everyone know who votes tomorrow.

The political group behind these mailings says it has sent out about three million of these so-called voter audits. The goal they say is to use public information to increase participation in the election. But some people we talked to said the information in their mailbox is none of their neighbors` business.

Angry homeowners across the country beseiged the Facebook page for Americans for Limited Government, the political group behind the letters.

"You ... have invaded Americans' privacy," one person wrote.

From another: "You all should be arrested for the information you are sending to people's homes..."

And another: "How dare you."

Virginia Beach election officials said they've heard no complaints. And, they said, the information in the mailing is public record.

That's right, your voter registration, and your participation, are public records. What's not public is for whom you voted.

NewsChannel 3 called Americans for Limited Government in Fairfax. The voicemail boxes were full. We emailed, and got back a canned response saying they only want to boost turnout.

The group claims this was non-partisan, but their website is clearly anti-Obama.

Jeffrey Costa said he was traveling in 2004 and couldn't vote but he did vote last election. He says it's  uncomfortable that people now know what their neighbors do on election day.

"Everybody knows what I did, and we know what they did."

Americans for Limited Government released this statement about the mailings:

“Americans for Limited Government's (ALG's) mailing has one goal and one goal only, to increase participation in the electoral process. We firmly believe that people who sit on the sidelines and do not engage in selecting our leaders are abandoning not just their right to a say but are diminishing everyone's rights. We have a stake in the system, we all need to express our views.

Using publicly available information, we have been able to identify voters who have a tendency to vote but for whatever reason have failed to do so at the most critical moments. We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds.

While some may find the ability of campaigns or civic groups like ALG to access voting history worrisome, the reality is that in a representative democracy using voter lists and histories is a fundamental tool. Abe Lincoln advised his followers in the use of such information in his failed campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1858, refining his techniques to win the White House two years later.

Ultimately it is our hope that what our mail piece accomplishes is an increase in participation in the process. If that is achieved, we at ALG will declare the American people the winners and celebrate."

- Richard Manning, Communications Director, Americans for Limited Government

Regarding errors in the data Manning said:

 "The data came from a contractor's compilation of publicly available voter records, and inevitably an extremely small percentage had entry errors. It was in our interest to have 100 percent of the data correct."