Sunday, June 03, 2012

Political Mail

I got a piece of weird political mail the other day.

It lists my name, along with the names of about 10 people in my neighborhood, some on my street, some on streets near, and then in two adjacent columns, headed by recent election dates, either a blank or a "voted" next to each name.

In the other part of the piece it talks about doing one's civic duty and voting in the upcoming election.

I'm guessing this is something my party put together trying to personalize the voting process and make us think about each others' voting record?  It seems so weird, though.  They wouldn't want to do the "get out the vote" thing for members of another party, and I'm registered with a party through my voter registration.

While the local county clerks obviously keep track of who's voted, I wouldn't have thought that those records would be available to just anyone who walked in. 

I'm sort of creeped out by the mail.  I think there are two reasons.  First, it identifies me to other folks as a registered member of the party, just as it identifies those other folks to me as a registered member of the party.  Second, I live on a street with 9 houses, near other streets with lots more houses, and there is only a small number of names on the list.  Does that mean that only a few of us are members of this party?  Or did they just put in a few on each mailing list?  Are there really so few of us?

A few years ago, I was at a family party and a cousin's wife asked me something about if it was horrible to live in an area that was so not where we're from.  (Yes, people where I'm from are as parochial sometimes as people from anywhere.)  And I said, no, there were great people here, and jerks, just as there were great people and jerks where we're from.  There are really fine people whose politics I disagree with, and there are jerks whose politics are right in line with mine.

And I believe that.   But the attacks on teachers and public employees here have been so viscious and so sustained that I also feel a bit that voting for/with the attackers is personal.  And I'm tired of feeling attacked.

I'm also tired of the emails and mailings I get from my party re-emphasizing the nastiness.

I have friends who've been working dedicatedly on election stuff, and if we lose, I'm sure I'll feel bad that I didn't do more to contribute, but I'm so sick of all this.  And to think that it's going to go on at probably this level and more into November makes me want to wretch.

I'm going to dig up some irises today to make room for some strawberries.  And I'm going to give the irises to some other folks, one a neighbor who isn't on the list, and one a colleague whose politics I'm unsure of.  And I sure as heck hope they enjoy the flowers.


  1. Anonymous7:05 AM

    Party registration is a matter of public record for some reason (at least it was in NC) but that still is creepy....

  2. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Sounds like the kind of thing that might be an academic study. Does knowing your neighbors' record get you more interested in voting? Wonder if that was easy to get through the IRB...

  3. Typically the voter file includes that kind of information: where people are registered to vote, what party they belong to (if the state has party registration), which elections they have or haven't voted in. If a state does not have party registration, you can see which party primaries a person has voted in and guess at their party affiliation that way.

    It is not typically available to ANYBODY, but it is available to political parties and candidate campaigns. (I don't know the exact details for your state, I'm speaking from my knowledge of how it works in other states.) So I think your guess is right and that it's probably either a party or a campaign that has sent you this mailer, and it is meant to encourage voter turnout by holding people accountable.

    I can sympathize with your feeling creeped out by this. But, to turn things around a bit -- should any of us really be able to hide behind a privacy shield to evade our public responsibility to participate in the political process and build the kind of world we ought to have? I mean, yes, it SUCKS beyond words that teachers and public employees are being attacked the way they are -- but there's only one way to stop it, and that is to fight back and defeat the people who are doing the attacking. If (generic, not you) people who believe those attacks are wrong put their head in the sands to the point where they don't even vote... that's disastrous.

    Some people are taking a more active role in the fight than you are (I mean, you're going to vote, right? Right???) And that is fine, I'm not criticizing you on those grounds -- but I'm just saying that voting should be the VERY minimum people do, and that holding people accountable for at least that -- well, maybe it's a good thing.

    I think this idea that politics is mean and low and rude to talk about is bad for democracy and particularly bad for people on our side. And that belief informs what I'm suggesting here. Anyway, it IS a suggestion, I'm interested to hear what you think.

  4. richard6:37 AM

    Bardiac, our state doesn't have party registration, so that was not the basis for the mailing. The data (voted or not voted) comes from a state database available on the web--riddled with mistakes and not up to date. I would say ignore it, personally. Oh, and the PAC that sent it out is linked to "your" party, but really only to the conservative wing. If you were to look up their major donors, you would find prominent supports of the other party well represented on the list.