It's not a story that will appear in the national press or 60 Minutes or on the Today Show.....but up in Wisconsin over the past week or two.....there's this new trend which troubles folks. With the recall in full turbo at this point....someone thought it'd be neat to take the state database of folks who vote/don't vote, and wretch the mess up another notch.
You can imagine this scene. Sitting at your front porch....the mail man comes by and delivers the mail. You walk out and find this one envelop in the box. It's from some big fancy foundation and has a fancy logo on the front of the envelop.
You open this to find a friendly reminder about voting in this week's election. No big deal.
But then, there's this listing of folks who live around you.....folks you know on a first-name basis.
There's Claude, the Vietnam vet who keeps his lawn squared away and in five-star condition. He drinks a good bit after each mowing episode, and he will tell you minute-by-minute descriptions about some firefight in 1967, and how he wiped out an entire patrol of "Charley".
There's Uncle Frank, the guy who wears $90 hats all the time, and has never stepped foot in Wal-Mart in his entire life.
There's Mr and Mrs Buck.....who are Catholic but everyone generally looks the other way and accepts them almost like regular people.
Then, there's Miss Tuback, who says that she's originally from Gulfport, but she has a funny accent, and some folks think she's actually Russian. She likes to wear one-piece bathing suits while mowing her grass, and always has five guys stopping by to ask her best method of mowing.
So these people are listed, with their addresses, and the letter basically says that none of them have voted in the past two elections. What the foundation wants you to do.....is work on their behalf and talk to your neighbors about voting. In a way, you are supposed to shame your best friends and neighbors....into voting.
I sat and read this Wisconsin story, which will never make it into the national press. It's a sad event in someways that we've become so smart at database work.....that we sit there and use the end-product.....to twist the arms of folks into voting. Did I really need to know that Uncle Frank hasn't voted in two elections? Next month....will I receive a note that Uncle Frank has five parking tickets in Memphis, Tennessee at a sleazy hotel district over the past five years? Or maybe I get some letter telling me that Miss Tuback is one of fifty Russian mafia folks relocated to Wisconsin? Maybe I'll get a letter from some foundation telling me that Claude is a registered Republican, and that Mr Buck is a Tea Party member.
There's some point where data base results really ought to be just nifty to know, and not much else. When you start using stuff like this for mailing out.....you are begging for trouble. You might accidentally discover that your neighbors don't care much for either party, and start to encourage you not to vote. Then you might actually a bigger mess on your hands, where 100k voters show up out of five million residents, and decide your election for you.