It's Long Past Time to Restore Voters' Privacy


In this year's Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes repeatedly refused to tell the public whether she voted to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012. Her unwillingness to admit to something so obvious was an incredibly impolitic move, and it certainly contributed to the size of her loss to incumbent Mitch McConnell.

However, and perhaps to the surprise of many readers, what became her go-to objection to reporters' and debate moderators' questions — "I respect the sanctity of the ballot box" — resonated with more than a few people with whom I've spoken during the past month.

There's a reason for that. Many voters have figured out that their voting habits have become the subject of unwarranted scrutiny and electoral gamesmanship — and they don't like it one bit. Nor should they.

Less than a week before Election Day, the New York Post reported that the state's Democratic Committee had sent letters to "1 million registered Democrats who had failed to vote in previous midterm elections." The missive reminded them that "whether or not you vote is public record," and told them that the committee would be reviewing voting records "to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014." Recipients also received a "report card" of their voting record in the past four elections.

Although the intimidating and threatening tone of the letter generated an unusual amount of outrage, the practice of "voter shaming" itself has become fairly common.

Oddly enough, about a week before Election Day, a friend gave me an invalidly addressed postcard from the Ohio Democratic Party in Columbus which had been misdirected to his Cincinnati mailbox. It told "Christina," the addressee (the last name was provided but has been withheld), how many times she had voted in the past five general elections "according to public records," compared her show-up rate to "others in your neighborhood," told her that "it's time to do your part," and provided her polling location. The postcard's other side listed the Buckeye State's almost completely hapless Democratic slate.