By JACOB PERRYMAN
Your voting may not be as secret as you thought.
Some residents of Warren County recently received a letter from the lobbying group Americans for Limited Government.
The letter contained the names and addresses of the voters receiving the letter and their neighbors. Information on whether the individuals listed on the letter voted was provided for the 2004 and 2008 elections.
Residents verified that the information contained in the letter was accurate.
In the United States, the Australian ballot system, which includes a provision requiring that votes are marked in secret, was adopted in most states by the late 1800s.
While this does prevent anyone from obtaining information on how someone voted, other information about voting history is a matter of public record.
In Pennsylvania, records including voter birth dates, sex, when an individual registered to vote, which political party a voter belongs to, whether an individual voted in a given election, an individual's voter ID number and even a phone number if it was included on the voter registration are available from the Department of State.
In fact, for a fee of $20, the state of Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Commissions, Election and Legislation will provide an electronic document containing essentially all the information it has for voters in the commonwealth except a Social Security number and a listing of the actual content of an individual's ballot.
Many other states also provide voter information, but cost and content of material released varies from state to state. Some states only provide the information to political candidates or parties.
Americans for Limited Government, which describes itself as, "leaders in identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government," used these government voter information databases to generate the information in the letters, which it called a "vote history audit."
As a result, recipients now have a record of which of their neighbors voted and which did not in 2004 and 2008. The letter goes on to say the group will be updating its records following the 2012 general election and sending recipients another letter with information on whether they and their neighbors voted.
The letters have been sent out across the country and have sparked widespread suspicion that the group's intent is to shame people into voting. A quick Google search turned up more than 1,000 news articles on the letters in the last month.
Americans for Limited Government did not respond to requests for comment on the purpose of sending the letters.
The Pennsylvania Department of State did not respond to requests for comment on the availability of voter information.