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Political mailers causing controversy among neighbors

By David Kaplan, dkaplan@wdbj7.com
Published On: Nov 01 2013 04:32:57 PM EDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2013 07:28:15 PM EDT

People across the region are shocked to find out their voting history is being shared with their neighbors.

ROANOKE, Va. -

People across the region are shocked to find out their voting history is being shared with their neighbors.

Even more surprising the groups sending this information through the mail are doing it legally.

We've gotten reports of two of these voter audits floating around.

One of them is from the Democratic Party of Virginia and it lists the people in the household and whether they voted in the last governor's and presidential races.

The other is from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative Political Action Committee.

That mailer tells people they haven't voted recently and lists some of their neighbors by name and address who have.

"I didn't know what the hell was going on really," said Carl Padgett.

He and his wife Louisa got both mailers Thursday.

Neither lists nor endorses a specific party or candidate.

The intent of both these mailers is to get you to vote, something the Padgett's say they've done every election since Nixon.

"Whether I vote or don't vote does not make me a bad person, that makes me exercise the rights that we have," said Louisa.

"Well if it's somebody encouraging me to vote, yeah. But I don't want my name put on everything like this," Carl added.

The Americans for Prosperity Mailer is what's really bothering people like the Padgetts.

They are upset, feeling like they're being called out for not voting even though they have.

"It's intimidation, it's invasion of privacy, it's wrong on too many levels and it's invading the others privacy by letting me know that they voted," said Louisa.

We wanted to see how one of the neighbors listed on the Americans for Prosperity mailer felt about this, to see if they even knew.  The neighbor who's door we knocked on said she didn't know and she doesn't like it one bit.

Because voter rolls are considered public record, people can't opt out as long as they're registered to vote, something that's scaring the people who have gotten these mailers.

"It's not supposed to happen. You're not supposed to have a list of voters and then sell it to someone else, give it to someone else. It's no ones business but ours," Louisa said.

The Democratic Party of Virginia says this is now the commonly used way to get people out to vote.

Americans for Prosperity reps tell me their intent is the same and they don't mean for people to be upset or feel like their privacy is being invaded.

Instead, they're wanting to raise civic and neighborhood awareness to help get out the vote.

All this is legal because there was a court case in 2010 that allows third parties access to all of this information.

The State Board of Elections tells me because of that ruling that they're required to give out this information to companies that then give it to political parties and other political groups.