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NC GOP sends 'voter shaming' cards

Posted November 1, 2018 7:18 p.m. EDT
Updated November 5, 2018 7:07 p.m. EST

— The North Carolina Republican Party is calling potential voters out, in front of their neighbors, for not voting in past elections.

The tactic is commonly called voter shaming, and it's meant to increase turnout. Mailers target likely Republican voters with a tacit threat: Don't vote, and we'll spread the word.

"In North Carolina, your personal voting history is a public record anyone can look up on the internet," the mailer says. "The chart below shows your voting record and the voting record of some of your neighbors."

This did not sit well with Kelly Ducker, who got a mailer listing her husband and four neighbors, plus whether they voted in elections going back the last six years.

Zachary Ducker wasn't even registered to vote in North Carolina during the years the card said he didn't vote.

He was registered in Washington state. He voted there by absentee ballot because he was assigned to Fort Bragg and pulling three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Now, I don't even want to vote for my party," said Kelly Ducker who, like her husband, is a registered Republican living in Harnett County.

Whether a person votes is public record in North Carolina, and it can be looked up online. Who a person votes for is private.

State records do indeed show that Zachary Ducker voted in Washington in 2012 and 2014, that he registered in North Carolina in 2015 and that he voted here in 2016.

Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse defended the cards. Regardless of the reason Ducker didn't vote in North Carolina during the 2012 and 2014 elections, the mailer is "accurate," he said.

And the mailer's point? Is it "vote or we'll tell your neighbors?"

“The information is public," Woodhouse replied.

Kelly Ducker was incensed, called the party to complain and did not get satisfaction.

"This letter has been sent to my home and all of my neighbors," she said in an email to WRAL News. "It is a shame that the GOP has stooped this low to get a vote. Even more unfortunate that my husband is a registered Republican and is being bullied and shamed by his own party."

Zachary Ducker called the mailer "kind of ridiculous."

The North Carolina Democratic Party hasn't sent similar mailers this cycle, party spokesman Robert Howard said.

"If we do discuss past history, it’s always about the recipient's personal history – never their neighbors – and it’s always in positive terms, things like, 'You’re getting this because you’re an active voter,'" he said via email.

That wasn't the case in 2014, though, when Democrats sent voters a "report card" on their voting history, deeming most of them "average" and suggesting voters would be surveyed in the future.

"Public records will tell the community at-large whether you vote or not ... and it would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your neighbors," the mailer said.

Research indicates the tactic works: Turnout goes up.

"We generally don’t engage in things we don’t think work," Woodhouse said this week.

But sometimes it backfires. The Duckers plan to change their registrations to unaffiliated, Zachary Ducker said.

"I'm not like a diehard," he said. "I hate the whole party-line thing. But, yeah, this has definitely influenced me. ... It just kind of rubbed both of us the wrong way."