Originally Published: November 16, 2012 9:58 p.m.
Linda Mankel wasn't happy to find out her neighbors received election mailers listing whether she and other neighbors voted in the last two presidential elections.
Titled a "vote history audit," the mailer arrived shortly before this year's general election and listed several neighbors' names, addresses, and whether they voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.
The mailer apparently went to 2.7 million voters across 19 states.
"It feels invasive," said Mankel, a Dewey-Humboldt resident who asked The Daily Courier this week for information about the mailers. "I would prefer that in the next election my neighbors don't get this info."
State and county elections officials say others complained, too.
"It lit up the phones" in the county elections office, Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said.
The mailer promised "as a further service" to send an updated voter history after the 2012 general election, telling people whether their neighbors voted in that election, too.
The mailer came from the conservative Americans for Limited Government based in Fairfax, Va. The ALG website says the group fights for private property rights and against the expansion of government.
"Thank you for your dedication to voting in past presidential elections," the mailer said. "Our American democracy is stronger because of civic-minded citizens like you."
The Secretary of State's office heard enough complaints that it sent out an email to county election officials advising them to tell voters to complain directly to ALG by calling 703-383-0880 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Like you, our office has received a great number of complaints," Arizona Election Director Amy Chan wrote in the Oct. 30 email. "In reviewing the history of such mailings, it appears they are intended to increase turnout among recipients through the use of social pressure.
"However, the letters we have been provided appear to be somewhat frightening to the recipient in a 'big brother' type way."
Yavapai County Republican Party Chair Mal Barrett, Jr., agreed the mailer was a bad idea. His daughter was among the recipients.
"Nobody I talked to was happy about it," Barrett said. "We were inundated with complaints. It did not motivate them to vote. It made them suspicious about who got their information."
County elections departments are the only agencies that can distribute this information in Arizona, said Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's office.
State law requires counties to give the information to major political parties for free, but they can charge everyone else, Roberts said. The information is public only for non-commercial purposes.
Yavapai County Elections Director Lynn Constabile said Yavapai distributed such voter information only to the Republican and Democratic parties this year, because no one else asked for them.
So ALG apparently either got the Yavapai information from party officials or from others who already received the information from party officials. Barrett said the county Republican Party didn't give the information to ALG because it distributes it only to Republican candidates and state party officials, who then send it on to the national party.
Some angry voters who called the county elections office thought the information was private, Hoffman said.
Voters can keep such information private by applying to the Yavapai County Superior Court for confidentiality. Arizona Revised Statutes 16-153 generally states that eligible applicants must be either government employees in the criminal justice fields or people protected under orders of protection and injunctions against harassment.
The only other way to keep the information private is to apply for inclusion in the Arizona Secretary of State's Address Confidentiality Program. It's open to people who have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual or stalking offenses. Call 602-542-1653 or send an email to email@example.com. Learn more online at azsos.gov/info/acp.
The way people mark their ballots has always been confidential.