Homeowners receive letters in mail revealing neighbors' voting record

Supervisor of elections says actions by nonprofit are legal

ORLANDO, Fla. – Election officials in at least two Central Florida counties are warning voters about recent mailings that may be perceived as misleading and/or voter shaming.

Orange County resident Carmen Garcia, who lives in the Chicksaw Woods neighborhood, said she recently received a letter telling her to vote, and also showing whether she and many of her neighbors voted in the past four elections.

"I don't agree with that. I think if you vote or if you don't vote, you know what you do. I don't need nobody reminding me what I do," Garcia said. "It's like somebody looking at every step that you do."

News 6 found out the letters are being sent by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called Center for Voter Information. A spokesperson told News 6 they're sending the letters across 20 states.

"We are very familiar with this organization," said Bill Cowles, Orange County supervisor of elections.

Cowles said the actions by the nonprofit are legal.

"They can get the Florida voter registration list because it is public record. And part of your voting record is your voting history," said Cowles.

Cowles said some voters have complained and are questioning if the mail is being sent by their county elections office.

In Seminole County, elections officials said they've received dozens of complaints about the same organization. That's why they've created this website, letting folks know if the mail they're getting is official mail from their elections office.

The D.C.-based nonprofit said they've sent out 7.3 million Get Out to Vote mailings in Florida over the past few weeks. They're mostly targeting people who are underrepresented, like single women, young people, blacks and Hispanics.

A spokesperson for the nonprofit sent News 6 this email Thursday:

"We have one main mission, and that's to encourage people to vote—especially those most likely to drop off as voters between presidential and mid-term elections.

"Whether someone voted in an election is public record. As a civic-engagement group, we use public records to help voters understand their voting records. Those who can vote—and have previously participated—often are inspired to vote when shown their record. It's a way to provide some meaningful benchmarks and encourage greater involvement in our democracy.

"Arizona's Adriana Araceli Hall is a great example. When we sent her a voting report card in October, she was so inspired that she went on Facebook to offer free rides to the polls for any voters in her area, regardless of party affiliation.

"Our research shows that nearly 40 million Americans who voted in the 2016 presidential election will probably not vote on November 6th. The work we do, particularly among the most traditionally under-represented voters, is trying to improve those grim statistics.

"There are millions of eligible citizens in Florida who might sit on the sidelines of our democracy for this crucial election. And way too many of them come from under-represented groups of Americans, including African-Americans, Latinos, young people, single women and others who are struggling to make it in America. The Voter Participation Center is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of historically underrepresented groups in our democracy. Our only purpose is to encourage people to vote!"

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.