A political group is sending sleazy letters to people in the Lehigh Valley and other states trying to turn neighbor against neighbor in the final days before Tuesday's election.
The letters, from Americans for Limited Government, hit local mailboxes last week. They're marked "vote history audit" and name the recipient and their neighbors and whether they voted in the two previous presidential elections.
"We have conducted an audit of public voting records in your neighborhood, and wanted to present you with findings of past civic participation in your community," the letter says.
It's obvious these letters intend to create peer pressure and shame people into going to the polls. That's just childish. While I believe everyone should cherish their right to vote, this isn't an honorable way to persuade people to participate in democracy. It leaves you wondering what the ulterior motive is, as there's always an ulterior motive in politics.
But what's even more insulting is the voting records being shared aren't always accurate. That could mislead politically rabid patriots into believing their neighbors are too lazy to vote, sparking animosity.
The letters just don't pass the smell test. And while they don't seem to have caused much of a stink yet in the Lehigh Valley area, people in other parts of Pennsylvania and in other states aren't happy, prompting some officials to warn people to trash the mailings.
"Ignore this," the Beaver County Republican Committee advised in a Twitter message Thursday that advised people to "spread the word," especially to the elderly.
Americans for Limited Government doesn't stop at spreading possibly inaccurate voting records through neighborhoods. It threatens to play Big Brother, too, by making it clear that you're being watched and if you don't vote, your neighbors will know about it.
"As a further service, we will be updating our records after the expected high turnout for the Tuesday, November 6, 2012 election," the letter says. "We will then send an updated vote history audit to you and your neighbors with the results. Please be sure to continue your participation and exercise your right and responsibility to vote."
Describing this process as an "audit" is yet another scare tactic.
Americans for Limited Government is based in Fairfax, Va. Its website describes the organization as non-partisan, but the site is full of anti-Obama articles and cartoons.
It spent money in 2010 supporting Republican Senate candidates and opposing many Democratic House candidates, including Patrick Murphy of Bucks County and Paul Kanjorski of Monroe and Carbon counties, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.
In a statement, Americans for Limited Government spokesman Richard Manning said the mailing, which went to 2.75 million voters in 19 states, "has one goal and one goal only, to increase participation in the electoral process."
"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," Manning said. "We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds."
It would be one thing if the letters' facts were straight. But they aren't always.
The "vote history audit" that came to my home says my wife didn't vote in the 2004 presidential election. I know she did, because we waited in line together. And two of the five supposed neighbors listed on my letter don't live anywhere near me. They're four miles away, in another township.
Tim Benyo of Lehigh County was audited, too. His letter said he'd blown off the two previous presidential elections, which I doubt he'd do, considering he's the county elections director.
"It was wrong because I voted in 2004 and 2008 and it had me as no," Benyo told me. "So it's not very accurate."
He said he doesn't know where Americans for Limited Government obtained the information.
Manning said in his statement the data was obtained "from a contractor's compilation of publicly available voter records, and inevitably an extremely small percentage had entry errors. It was in our interest to have 100 percent of the data correct."