The reaction to a mailing from the Democratic State Central Committee letting voters know they were watching who voted in the 2014 election was met with disgust by most voters.
One of those voters filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
Eva M. Eszterhai of Niantic felt that the DSCC mailer was trying to “strong arm/bully [her] into voting” and that the letter had an “intimidating tone.”
“Who you vote for is private, but whether or not you vote is public record,” the letter reads. “We’re sending this mailing to you and your neighbors to publicize who does and does not vote.”
There were other similar mailers regarding voting records sent by an outside group and the Republican Party, but Eszterhai’s complaint only cited the one from the Democratic State Central Committee.
The Democratic State Central Committee didn’t deny sending the mailer, SEEC Attorney William Smith told the commission Tuesday.
Smith said that one of the attorneys for the DSCC even exhibited some “contrition.”
DSCC Attorney Arnold Skretta told the SEEC that “the DSCC deeply regrets that some individuals, including (Complainant), found the mailing unsettling, (insulting) or even unsavory.”
Despite what it may have made voters feel, there was nothing illegal about it since it was properly attributed, Smith said.
“The letter did say, ‘Paid for by the Democratic State Central Committee’,” he said.
“While the commission certainly doesn’t need to condone the style or the tone of this letter, I think it’s clear that this is not a threat to disenfranchise or it’s not a warning to stay away from an election,” Smith said. “In fact, I think it’s the opposite. They’re clearly trying to get this person out to vote.”
Smith said he thinks the Democratic Party probably isn’t going to use this as a get-out-the-vote effort in the future.
“They clearly have a sense that they offended some people,” Smith told the SEEC Commissioners Tuesday.
He said they received a flurry of phone calls about the letter, but there was only one complaint filed.
The Commissioners voted 4-0 to dismiss the complaint because they could not find that it violated any election laws, even if it was unsavory.
SEEC Chairman Anthony J. Castagno said this “sort of campaign technique, which is really distasteful” was used in other parts of the country and was universally panned.
Castagno said his daughter received one of the mailings and her reaction to it was extremely negative.
“It was a really poor technique to use,” Castagno said. “I understand what you’re saying about that it doesn’t break any laws.”
The Office of Legislative Research assumed that the mailing may be used this year to limit what information is available to the public. Currently, the information on voting cards and the number of elections a voter participated in is public information.
In a policy brief, analysts wrote that the “legislature may consider proposals addressing the availability of certain information found in voter registration records (e.g., by limiting disclosure of a voter’s date of birth).”
No legislation has been introduced yet, but there’s still a week left for lawmakers to propose bills.