Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Political Mailers Raising Concern Among Some 12th Congressional District Voters

Ohio Public Radio

Voters in seven central Ohio counties go to the polls today to choose who will serve the remaining term of retired Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi. 

The race is between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor.   Voters in the12th congressional district have been inundated with political mailers, including one that some say has crossed the line. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles explains. 

When Delaware resident Beth Cerda went to her mailbox and saw letters addressed to her adult children that listed their voting records……


I was furious.”


She thought the letters were intimidating, especially to younger voters.


One of them is 21. The other is 19. And these letters were basically tallying up how many times that they voted in the last four elections. And my daughter couldn’t have voted in any of them until last year.  And it just feels like they were trying to shame them or something like that ….like shame on them for not voting when they were 10, 12, 13 years old.”


Part of the letter she received reads like this: “Who you vote for is secret but whether or not you vote is public record. This year we’re sending you and your neighbors these records to help you track your civic participation.”


The mail was sent by the Progressive Turnout Project. Priyal Amin is a spokeswoman for that group. She says these flyers, which she calls social pressure mailings, are not meant to intimidate voters.  


Our goal is not to publicly shame people or offend them in any way. We just want them to receive their voting record and understand this is a public record and actually think about it for a second when making the decision about whether they are going to vote to kind of say, ‘My voting record is public record.’ It kind of goes back to our organization’s efforts to identify people and make them proud of the fact that they are voters and they have publicly voted before.”


Amin says her organization mailed out more than 87,000 pieces of mail like this and has only heard complaints from a few people. But left leaning groups are not the only ones using this tactic. Delaware resident Chris Fink got two of these from Republican organizations. One listed voting records of three other people he didn’t even know. 


The way it was approached, it really felt like it was over the line with respect to privacy but maybe it’s not, it’s just right up to that line. And then it also felt a little presumptive.”


Fink says it assumes the voter is going to cast ballots along party lines and points out not every voter votes for the party’s candidate every time. Rob Secaur is with the Ohio Republican Party, one of the organizations named on the mailers.


You know this has been happening for years. I’ve seen this in presidential politics, state politics and across the country. It’s social pressure to get folks to vote. And it’s talking about how important it is to make sure your voice is heard. I don’t think there’s any problem with doing that.”


But voters like Fink and Cerda think it’s heavy handed. They don’t like it. And when combined with other tactics…..text messages, phone calls, door to door canvassing, they say they feel like it’s too much. Fink says he was also sent a partially filled out absentee ballot request that he didn’t want. Fink likens this to a home show where vendors offer gifts to get your contact information.


You stop to fill out a ballot to win a free estimate or a gift card from somewhere and then you are incessantly contacted by that company for the next six months or a year.”


Still, Amin says there’s a good reason why groups continue this tactic. 


Social pressure mailings, we’ve seen, increase voter turnout by about 8 percent.”


The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
Related Content