Political mailer hits close to home, shows if neighbors voted - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Political mailer hits close to home, shows if neighbors voted

By now, voters may be used to seeing political flyers filling their mailboxes with facts and figures about the candidates. But some new mailers are turning the tables -- showing information about voters themselves and whether they hit the polls in recent elections.

When many Wausau voters checked their mail this past weekend, they got a glimpse of something unusual -- their neighbor's voting record.

"I had no idea that was a part of the public record," said Bryan Mergen, who lives in Wausau.

The mailer -- put out by the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund -- shows a list of people who live near you and whether they voted in two recent November elections. It doesn't show who you voted for, but even so, some voters said it's an invasion of their privacy.

"At first I read through it and I glanced at it and I thought this is just odd," said Vickie Stretz, who lives in Wausau. "It seemed invasive to me."

"It's a little bit sad that we have to shame people into voting," said Mergen. "They should be excited about it and I know it's something I look forward to doing."

Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board spokesperson Reid Magney said voter records are public records. With a name and a birth date, you can find election records right on their website. And some voters said they don't mind the exposure.

"My first reaction is, what's this?" said Mary Dominski, who lives in Wausau. "And then I thought, well, it's okay. I had no problem with it because I have no problem with my voting record."

Magney said many groups buy a copy of the statewide voter list. But he said this is the first time a group has used the voter information this way.

"I think it probably was not the smartest political move, because I think there's a lot of antagonism and a lot of people thought there was more information than there really is," said Dominski. 

On its website, the group funding the mailers said it doesn't support any particular candidate. Now many voters said they're not sure what to think -- as the ads seem to pit neighbor against neighbor in an already-heated political climate.

"I didn't know if they wanted me to contact my neighbors about voting, which seems a little pushy to me," said Stretz. "I mean, voting is a privilege and it's everyone's own personal privilege."

Despite the mixed emotions caused by the mailing, many said they still plan to hit the polls, regardless of what their neighbors do.

Newsline 9 tried to contact the Greater Wisconsin Committee directly -- but the voicemail box there is full and no one returned our email. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the group funding these flyers has spent about $4.8 million in this recall election.

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