Would You Be More Likely to Vote if Everyone Knew Whether You Did or Not?

Voting is the greatest act an everyday citizen can do to participate in our democracy, a right that has been fought for all throughout the history of our nation. We’ve seen efforts to expand the vote with ways of making it easier, such as absentee ballots, same day registration and accessible voting with assistance on site at polling places. We’ve also, sadly, seen a number of initiatives meant to suppress the vote, from closing down early voting sites, purposefully not having enough balloting materials or not enough polling places for certain populations, or photo ID requirements.

Now, there’s an odd campaign out of Arkansas which is claiming to be a means of encouraging more voters to cast ballots. Instead, however, it may be intimidating them out of voting at all.

According to a news station out of Rogers, Ark., some neighborhoods are receiving interesting mailing that allegedly are supposed to encourage them to go to the polls. The mailings consist of a list of people in their neighborhood, and whether or not they have been voting.

This “helpful” list may be presented as a way to have neighbors encourage other neighbors to vote, but those who have seen it in their mailboxes really think it’s more of a shame tactic than anything else. “I thought it was something about the upcoming election but when I actually opened it up and read it I was just stunned. It’s more like a public shame is what it feels like when you read the letter,” resident Scott Murphy told the news channel. ”It felt like I was being put on display. It’s like someone is trying to shame me into casting my ballot.”

Is it a name and shame quest, and if so, is that really such a bad thing if it gets more people participating in democracy? Actually, yes. After all, although voting may be a right, it’s certainly not mandatory, and using peer pressure to try to create a higher turnout isn’t exactly the stuff that democracy is made of.

Even worse, there’s the likelihood that such a campaign wouldn’t encourage more votes, but actually discourage those who usually do show up. Local residents expressed nervousness that the letters listing their voting record mean that other information about them was being accessed and made public, and that their privacy was being invaded.

After all, if it feels like someone is tracking you to the polls, what else might they be tracking?

Adding to this sense of disquiet and confusion is the fact that the group, “Arkansas State Voter Program,” doesn’t appear to really exist at all. The website states it is a project of “A Public Voice, Inc.” yet the Secretary of State says there is no incorporated organization with that name in the state, and the address that is listed for the voter mailings doesn’t have an actual office associated to it.

With so many efforts to try to curb voter participation, it’s no wonder people are looking for ways to encourage more voters to go to the polls. It’s also no wonder that people would be highly suspicious of any project that claims to have an agenda of persuading people to vote.

There’s plenty of reason to suspect dirty tricks. Voter suppression is still a key tactic for the GOP, and with the courts rolling back new voter ID laws, no doubt someone will be looking for another way to accomplish this. Since Arkansas is one of the states to see its new law struck down, it’s not surprising that a misleading effort like this could pop up there.

Voting is a right, not a requirement. If this truly is a voter engagement tactic, it’s a bad one, and one that is obviously ready to backfire. Let’s focus on making it easier, not harder, to vote, including when it comes to public relation campaigns surrounding the voting issue.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Good question: the answer is private.

Barbara DeFratis
Barbara DeFratis3 years ago

Whether or not every one knows would not change the fact that I vote every election. When I was young and stupid, I made the mistake of missing one election--the Presidential Election of 1980 and promised myself that it would never happen again. Now that I am in my 50's I do not care what people know about me. I am who I am, take it or leave it, either way, I am not changing for any one else.

Carole L.
Carole L3 years ago

Ron C
“If voting were mandatory then it would be absolutely necessary to have the ballot choice of none of the above...”

there is the write-in section of the ballots.

Dan B
I concur. Although I would not go so far as to require a test as Ron suggested.”

uh huh, like the “tests” they used to force black ppl to take b4 not allowing them to vote. Can you say; Poll Tax.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago


Suzanne Michael
Suzanne Michael3 years ago

With all the stickers on my car, there can be no doubt who i'm voting for. I don't care who knows i'm a progressive democrat living among alot of right wingers. I really expected my car to be keyed years ago but so far it hasn't happened yet (knock on wood). I just wish all the people in Washinton had to wear patches showing who is sponsering them! With Citizens United now on steroids I'd love to see who are on the take in the democratic party. We pretty much know who is backing the right but I'm afraid the sames people are backing them meaning after the election they'll come calling wanting to be paid back. Most of the dems need to be thrown out but not one wants to run against an imcombit so you can't ever get rid of the bad ones. If the Demoratic party is going to win more seats they have to start speaking out to the lies the rights sprews out day after day and get more progressive or else President Obama is going to be fighting an uphill battle until hes out of office. too many dems are just a bunch of wimps afraid to rock the boat and maybe lose a donor ,when if they'd do the right thing we have enough people to vote for them and keep them in office..If it weren't for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alan Grayso you wouldn't know theres a democratic party alive today , but they can do it on their own the rest of them need to speak up also and I really don't see it hapennig til almost election day. Thats one thing you've got to give the GOP even if they rely on lies,

Rose Roma
Rose R3 years ago

I wear the "I voted" sticker they hand out day after day til the gummy stick wears off. Just open your mouth and ask ANYONE if they voted, if they need a ride, if they need to know the dates or times for polls...all in a non-confrontational friendly manner stressing confidentiality and NOT trying to influence their choice or views. Smile. Trust. Act.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

I concur. Although I would not go so far as to require a test as Ron suggested.

James Maynard
James Maynard3 years ago

Whether or not you voted should
be as secret as the ballot you cast.
That said, I have never missed
voting, even while serving in the
military, nor the past 11 years of
living outside the U.S.A. Don't
understand people who choose
not to vote....

kathrynelizabet Etier

The ballot is supposed to be secret, and that should include whether you use it or not. I'd much rather have intelligent, informed individuals voting than folks that have no clue or interest in the issues and candidates but vote to keep from being "shamed."