The following editorial from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.
Voting records are open records, and that’s nothing new. And, frankly, it’s a good thing.
Yet, a great many people didn’t realize that, which is why some folks were surprised – and irked – when a political mailer arrived listing the voting records of their neighbors.
The mailer from GOPAC Education Fund, which supports Republican candidates, includes a chart listing the voting records – when they voted, not who they voted for – of their neighbors.
That, according to the Seattle Times, has people in Bellevue a bit torqued.
“Do they have the right to publish that information? Are they trying to shame people to vote?” one Bellevue woman who got the mailer told a Seattle Times reporter. “Now all my neighbors know that I didn’t vote in August.”
While using the voter information for this purpose does feel a bit intrusive, it is nevertheless legal.
It is important to have a public record of voting to ensure every vote counts. That starts with each voter being able to check to see if his or her vote was received and counted. Watchdog groups and others can also check who voted to make sure ballots are being counted.
In Washington state you can check your voting record and whether your ballot in this election has been processed at the secretary of state’s website.
Voter histories are available through the secretary of state’s office and county election officials, according to the Times, adding that they are generally free of charge and can be used for political purposes but not for commercial purposes. Voters’ names, addresses, jurisdiction, gender, date of birth, voter-registration number and voting record are public information, although phone numbers and email addresses are not, the newspaper reported.
It is unknown whether this GOPAC mailer was used in Eastern Washington. The reports of its use to this point have been from Western Washington.
Like most political mailers, it is targeted to get specific types of voters to vote. If enough people become irate and complain, it will stop.
However, having those records public should not be a concern. Knowing who voted in each election is an important safeguard in the election process.
Local journalism is essential.
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