- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A voter report-card mailer meant to grade Missouri residents on how often they vote compared to their neighbors has some in the state claiming it’s an invasion of privacy.

Grow Missouri sent the mailers this week - days before the Nov. 4 election - as a way to encourage residents to vote in the state’s first general election in nearly a quarter-century that doesn’t feature a race for president, U.S. Senate or governor.

The conservative group is financed by investment firm founder Rex Sinquefield, the state’s most prominent political donor.

“We’re not advocating for a candidate or campaign,” Grow Missouri Treasurer Aaron Willard said. “It’s simply that we want people to be more involved and engaged.”

The report cards assign voters letter grades based on participation and also list neighbors’ scores. But some Missouri residents believe the mailer is an invasion of privacy.

The secretary of state’s office had gotten about 16 calls and several emails Thursday with questions and concerns about the mailers, spokeswoman Laura Swinford said.

Lynn Carrington received an A, but the 59-year-old retiree from Fulton said it is one thing for someone to check public records for his voter participation. It’s another, he said, to publish and share that information with his neighbors in central Missouri.

“Evidently it’s not illegal, but it’s really unethical,” Carrington said. “It’s like they’re trying to humiliate people.”

The group graded his neighbor, Bonnie Smith, with a C. She plans on voting, but said the mailer was “childish.”

“If you want someone to vote you encourage them, you don’t go shaming them,” said Smith, a retired 57-year-old.

Similar efforts nationwide from both conservative and liberal groups also have met complaints.

Some Alaskans have complained to the state director of elections about emails and letters from the Alaska State Voter Program asking about their voting histories. And the liberal group Defend Oregon sent postcards comparing residents’ voting history to their neighborhood average during the 2012 elections; neighbors’ individual voting histories were not included.

Willard said the report cards were sent out to random groups of people to see how the message impacts participation. If it works, Willard said the group might use it in future elections.


Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine.

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