Letter upsets voter

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Beaufort County voter is upset with an organization for distributing incorrect information about that voter’s voting record — upset enough to voice her concerns to the N.C. State Board of Elections.
The voter, who requested anonymity, said Americans for Limited Government sent a letter to several neighbors that indicated the voter did not vote in 2004 or 2008. The voter, who sent a copy of the letter to the Washington Daily News, said the letter’s information concerning that voter’s voting activity is incorrect and makes it seem the voter is apathetic about voting. A copy of the voter’s voting activity, provided by the voter, shows the voter marked ballots in primaries and general elections 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and this year’s primary.
Kellie Harris Hopkins, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections, said that office has not received similar complaints from voters in the county. The voting histories in the letters are public record, Hopkins said.
Similar letters from Americans for Limited Government, located in Fairfax, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., have caused concerns to be raised in Florida, Indiana and elsewhere in North Carolina. The organization is a conservative think-tank.
The N.C. State Board of Elections has received similar concerns and addressed the issue in a memorandum to county boards of elections. The mailings don’t appear to be illegal, according to Gary Bartlett, director of the state BOE.
“We are receiving phone calls from voters who are receiving correspondence in the mail about their voting history and the voting history of the neighbors. See attached. These callers are concerned about the purpose and intent of these meetings. This office will be monitoring this matter,” reads a part of the memorandum sent out Monday.
Richard Manning, ALG’s communications director, responded to an email from the Washington Daily News seeking comment on the matter.
“Americans for Limited Government’s (ALG’s) mailing has one goal and one goal only, to increase participation in the electoral process,” he wrote. “We firmly believe that people who sit on the sidelines and do not engage in selecting our leaders are abandoning not just their right to a say but are diminishing everyone’s rights. We have a stake in the system, we all need to express our views.
“Using publicly available information, we have been able to identify voters who have a tendency to vote but for whatever reason have failed to do so at the most critical moments. We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds.
“While some may find the ability of campaigns or civic groups like ALG to access voting history worrisome, the reality is that in a representative democracy using voter lists and histories is a fundamental tool. Abe Lincoln advised his followers in the use of such information in his failed campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1858, refining his techniques to win the White House two years later.
“Ultimately it is our hope that what we accomplish is an increase in participation in the process. If that is achieved, we at ALG will declare the American people the winners and celebrate.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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