A Wisconsin political advocacy group with ties to the Democratic Party and Big Labor is circulating pamphlets to state residents revealing their neighbors’ names, addresses, and voting histories. The campaign is an apparent attempt to pressure residents in the Madison area, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, to vote in Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election.
The group is called the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, a sister organization of the Greater Wisconsin Committee.
The GWC does not reveal its donors, but a report from the Center for Public Integrity notes that it received a $900,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors Association in May. It also received $500,000 from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.
Disclosure forms for the Political Fund, embedded below, show that the group has received $1 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state division of the National Education Association union, and $3,500 from the Service Employees International Union since last year.
GWPF also received nearly $2 million from America Votes and two of its offshoots, America Votes Action Fund and America Votes State Battles Fund. America Votes’s national partners include the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, the National Education Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and the Teamsters union.
University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse received this mailing from the labor-aligned Greater Wisconsin Political Fund last week, according to a post on her blog:
Information on individuals’ voting histories is publicly available, though it costs $12,500 to obtain the state-wide records.
Althouse said the flyer “may be the most disgusting thing I have ever received in the mail.” She added, “this is an effort to shame and pressure people about voting, and it is truly despicable.”
Other Wisconsin residents voiced concern as well. “I realize it’s public record…but I found it too much of my personal information being out there,” Elizabeth Mullen told the Janesville Gazette.
Academic work has examined the use of these sorts of tactics in pressuring voters to turn out on Election Day. “Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors,” one 2008 study found.
“Exposing a person’s voting record to his or her neighbors turns out to be an order of magnitude more effective than conventional pieces of partisan or nonpartisan direct mail,” the study adds. “In fact, the turnout effect associated with this mailing is as strong as the effect of direct contact by door-to-door canvassers and by far the most cost-effective voter mobilization tactic studied to date.”
Here are the GWPF’s disclosure forms for 2011 and the first quarter of 2012: