Voters receive ‘shaming’ letters with personal information from nonprofit

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee’s Coordinator of Elections tells News 2 they’ve gotten several calls about letters titled voter “report cards” that seem to be circulating to voters across not only the county and state, but the country. It’s from a nonprofit, but has personal voting history.

“Whose business is it how I voted or anybody else voted?” Murfreesboro voter Julie Tracy told News 2, “I’m old enough to know that it’s not something you talk about, and for somebody to be putting my business out in the street like that, if I got the email, so did some of my neighbors, I don’t like it.”

Tracey received the report card in an email, but residents in Nashville told News 2 they got the letter in the mail.

It’s from the Voter Participation Center (VPC), a nationwide nonprofit with a mission of getting unmarried women, people of color, and young people to vote.

It’s addressed to the resident, including their name and address, and confirms whether they voted in the last couple of elections or not. Then, it lists two neighbors, with their name blacked out and their recent voting history.

“I guess if it was coming from a known source like the election committee sent it out for some reason, I can see that, but I don’t know who these people are and why they’re posting my business for everybody to see,” Tracy exclaimed.

If a person voted and when is public information, and organizations can pay to get lists, but Tracy said her report card history was incorrect.

The letter also reads: “We may call you to ask about your voting experience…. If you do not vote this year, while we will be disappointed, we’ll be interested to hear why not.”

Tracy said she felt intimidated, “It was strongly worded… that’s wrong, it’s my business, I don’t have to answer to anybody about why I voted.”

Tom Lopach, the President and CEO of VPC, told News 2 in a statement:

“With COVID-19 impacting elections, we have a responsibility to do all we can to safely increase voter turnout amid this uncertain time. That sometimes includes sending helpful prompts to voters, to encourage them to participate in democracy. Using publicly available information, VPC cares if Tennessee citizens have voted, but not how they vote. As the VPC letters state: ‘No one knows how you vote, but IF you vote is a matter of public record.'”

Tennessee’s Election Coordinator Mark Goins tells News 2 that they’re very familiar with the organization and has gotten a lot of concerned calls and complaints about these letters, but they are not illegal voter intimidation.

“If someone intentionally tries to intimidate or gives misinformation to prevent someone from voting,” Goins explained, “This really isn’t a situation where it looks like they are saying don’t go vote or giving you a wrong date, this looks like a more of you better go vote and if you don’t go vote, we’re gonna ask you why. It’s more of a shame, the opposite, as opposed to prevent someone from voting.”

He added that many of the phone calls they’ve received are from people angry with the Secretary of State’s office thinking they sent them out.

“It’s certainly troubling, it looks like the big intrusive government is looking at your voting record and if you don’t go vote, we’re going to shame you for that,” he said.

Goins said the state would never send a letter like this to a voter. He recommends people throw them out or delete them immediately.

When it comes to actual voter intimidation, Goins explains that would be a letter or any form of misinformation, fraudulent ballots, or threat to not vote.

If you this happens to you or you have any concerns in the state of Tennessee, call 1 (877) 850-4959.

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