If you don’t vote, they’ll tell your neighbors

PeterGaluszka

Steve Serrao of Midlothian, Va., found something strange in his mailbox this summer. It was an official-looking letter in “report card” form from the conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation claiming that he had not registered as a voter and that the group intended to inform his neighbors.

According to reporting by Jim McConnell in the Chesterfield Observer newspaper, Sarrao was angered for several reasons.

First, the information was inaccurate. He is a registered voter who conscientiously participates in national, state and local elections.

Second, his wife, Renee, teaches government in high school, and the strong-arm and incorrect mailing embarrassed her because she presses her students on the importance of being registered voters.

Last, the letter and the threat of shaming him before his neighbors violated of his privacy.

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is linked to Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the hard-right Koch brothers that pushes such initiatives as getting politicians to sign a “pledge” promising to oppose any tax increase aimed at stemming greenhouses gas emissions.

The Observer contacted Larry Haake, the Chesterfield County registrar, who said other county residents had complained about similar letters and that the letters, though legal, are “outrageous.”

A Virginia spokesman for the Americans for Prosperity did not return the newspaper’s calls. But Dave Schwartz, director of the foundation’s Virginia chapter, said that the purpose of the effort was to get out the vote and that “sometimes our methods are non-traditional.”

Access to personal voting information used to be strictly limited in Virginia, the Observer noted, but that changed after a 2011 court ruling allowing outsiders to buy voter information.

Strong-arm mailbox policies like this are beyond creepy. They seem akin to having thugs at polling places to intimidate voters. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation has gone too far here.

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Michael Larabee · November 21, 2013