In a few minutes I’ll be heading to the polls. I vote because it makes me feel good and because I view it as every eligible American’s civic duty — but I draw the line at sending weirdly threatening letters to people who don’t exercise their franchise.
That’s what happened in the Empire State, where the New York Post reports that the New York State Democratic Committee sent letters to voters promising to check on whether they had gone to the polls. The letter says: “Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record.” It adds that “We will be reviewing voting records . . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.” As a parting shot, the letter states: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”
Apparently this kind of voter turnout technique is called “voter shaming” and has been used in other states. The New York version, though, has an edge of menace and personal accountability designed to ensure maximum effectiveness. It reminds me of the classic National Lampoon cover with a gun being held to a worried dog’s head and the tagline: “If you don’t buy this magazine we’ll kill this dog.” One can almost imagine thuggish, pin-striped representatives of the New York State Democratic Committee knocking on doors and saying: “Nice little neighborhood you got here. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”
Apparently “voter shaming” has been effective in some places. I hope it’s effective in New York, too — and the people who got that over-the-top letter all go to the polls and vote against every Democratic candidate, to send a message to the strong-arming jerks who presumed to try to intimidate them into voting in the first place.
As for everyone who lives outside of New York and didn’t receive a “voter shaming” letter, I hope you vote for the candidate of your choice because it’s the right thing to do.