Tampa Bay voters stunned by 'voting report cards' in mail

Posted at 5:29 PM, Nov 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-05 18:11:23-05

TAMPA, Fla. — With just 24 hours to Election Day, the political mailers haven't stopped. Millions of Floridians,  including people here in the Tampa Bay area, are getting 'voting report cards' in the mail. Some are even receiving their neighbor's voting history.

Young mom Kassandra Herrera anticipated a swarm of mailers during election time. But she didn't expect the voting report card she got in the mail.

“It’s just intimidating, it felt a little passive-aggressive," she said.

It's a report card showing whether or not you voted going back years. Who you voted for is not public record but whether you voted or not is.

“Yeah, below average [her score] and granted I know I’ve missed a mid-election or two, it just is still— you’re put back," she said.

We asked Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, Craig Latimer, if he'd seen these report cards before.

“Yes I have and we don’t have anything to do with them," he said. He tells ABC Action News his office has received complaints about them.

The mailers are from Washington D.C. based Center for Voter Information (CVI). Even more alarming to some is people seeing which of their neighbors voted. Names and exact addresses are blacked out but the streets are listed out.

“It feels weird, I get it but it feels weird that’s all," said Herrera who understands the intention behind them, but not the method.

CVI mailed 4.1 million of these report cards across Florida. The agency says it's not about shaming, it's about encouraging people to vote.

Statement from Page Gardner, Founder and President, CVI:
“We have one main mission, and that’s to encourage people to vote—especially those most likely to drop off as voters between presidential and mid-term elections.  
Whether someone voted in an election is public record. As a civic-engagement group, we use public records to help voters understand their voting records. Those who can vote—and have previously participated—often are inspired to vote when shown their record.  It’s a way to provide some meaningful benchmarks and encourage greater involvement in our democracy. 
Arizona’s Adriana Araceli Hall is a great example. When our sister group sent her a voting report card [] in October, she was so inspired that she went on Facebook to offer free rides to the polls for any voters in her area, regardless of party affiliation.
Our research shows that nearly 40 million Americans who voted in the 2016 presidential election will probably not vote on November 6th. The work we do, particularly among the most traditionally under-represented voters, is trying to improve those grim statistics. 
There are millions of eligible citizens in Florida who might sit on the sidelines of our democracy for this crucial election. And way too many of them come from under-represented groups of Americans, including African-Americans, Latinos, young people, single women and others who are struggling to make it in America. The Center for Voter Information is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of historically underrepresented groups in our democracy. Our only purpose is to encourage people to vote!”

Dozens of viewers reported similar tactics by other agencies. One viewer received a postcard where she could see all of her neighbors' exact turnout rate. No names were blacked out.

If you’d rather not be bugged by these mailers there’s not much you can do to prevent them. However, there's usually a phone number or email address you can contact to opt out from their mailing list. CVI says they're also targeting under-represented groups in efforts to get them to the polls. This includes youth, single women, African-Americans and Latinos like Herrera.

“My location is in the park right over there" she points,  "I’m set.”

Herrera plans to opt out of the mailing list but says, nonetheless, their message is loud and clear.