Empower Wisconsin | Aug. 6 , 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Not all -get-out-the-vote campaigns are created equal.
Some come with a menacing message.
A Wisconsin voter who registered to receive an absentee ballot for next week’s election not long after got a postcard from a left-wing group. He found its implications to be a threat of public shaming.
“Who you vote for is private, but whether you vote is a matter of public record. When we follow up after the election, we hope to see that you returned your mail ballot,” Washington, D.C.-based America Votes warned in the postcard with the bold headline, “RETURN YOUR MAIL-IN ABSENTEE BALLOT TODAY.”
Beyond the emphasis on “mail ballot” (the liberal group is helping drive the left’s all-mail vote campaign for November), is the speed at which America Votes targeted a Wisconsin absentee voter.
The group, which bills itself as “the coordination hub of the progressive community” partners with some of the biggest Democratic Party sugar daddies on the left — AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, Teamsters, Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, the Democratic Governors Association. More than 98 percent of its $1 million-plus in funding this election cycle comes from outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Its Action Fund took in $2.4 million in the 2018 election cycle.
America Votes has money to spend on state voter registration lists, including regular updates on absentee ballot requests and their status.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said subscribers may choose to receive updates monthly, bi-weekly, weekly or twice weekly.
Magney said the agency is receiving “many contacts” from voters concerned about all kinds of absentee ballot-related mailings, texts, phone calls and emails from different groups, including political parties, non-profits and candidates from all ends of the political spectrum.
“From the WEC’s perspective, it appears all these groups are trying to be helpful and to encourage people to request or return absentee ballots. The problem is that the contact methods, the execution and the messages often rub voters the wrong way,” the commission official said in an email to Empower Wisconsin.
America Votes methods may be questionable, but its mission is clear. It’s going after conservatives.
“America Votes’ in-state staff and network have proven a vital asset in pushing back against the conservative-led ‘War on Voting’ designed to systematically deny the rights of young voters and people of color,” the organization state on its website.
Magney said some people who never requested a ballot have received messages asking them to return their ballots.
“They fear somebody requested an absentee ballot on their behalf, but I’ve never found one case of that,” he said. “Other people who did request ballots get texts that include their name and an address (sometimes it’s their address, sometimes it’s not). They want to know how someone got their contact info, or why the address is wrong.”
He said union-backed groups have been sending out variations of the the mailers for years.
“Some early versions actually included the names and addresses of the voter’s ‘neighbors’ who had voted more often than the voter,” Magney said. “I use the term neighbors loosely because sometimes the addresses were from people who lived across town. The message that whether you vote is a public record and someone will be checking to see if you voted definitely rub some people the wrong way.”
The Elections Commission puts out news releases when mailings contain significant errors, Magney added..