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2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

Ohio Voters Receive Political Fliers With Personal Voting Information

Jo Ingles
This political mailer is upsetting some residents in Ohio's 12th Congressional District as they feel it has gone too far with its attempt to pressure them into voting.

Voters in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District are getting inundated with political mailers. However, there’s one type of mail that some voters say has crossed the line.

Voters in the congressional district Republican Pat Tiberi previously occupied have been flooded with mailers nearly every day for the past month.

But when Delaware resident Beth Cerda went to her mailbox and saw letters addressed to her adult children that listed their voting records, she was "furious."

She thought the letters to her adult children, who are 21 and 19 years old, were intimidating, especially to younger voters.

“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," Cerda said.

"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,” she continued.

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, a spokeswoman for the group, said 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 ...,’" Amin said.

"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,” she continued.

Amin said 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 certainly felt over the line regarding privacy, but I guess it’s not. Maybe right up to that line. And then it also felt a little presumptive,” he said.

Fink said 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.

“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," he said. "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 and don’t like it. And when combined with other tactics, including text messages, phone calls, and door-to-door canvassing, they feel like it’s too much.

Fink also received a partially filled out absentee ballot request that he didn’t want, which he likens 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,” he said.

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

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

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.