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Pflugerville woman concerned over letter containing neighbors' voting participation records

The nonprofit behind the letter called it a "helpful prompt" to encourage voters "to participate in democracy."

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — A Pflugerville woman is concerned that a letter she received in the mail may intimidate voters, and she wants the group behind it to do better.

Two days ago, Jacqueline Tarleton and her daughter received a letter from the Center for Voter Information. It's a nonprofit group, based in Washington, D.C., that says it's nonpartisan and that its goal is to get people to vote.

At first, she thought the letter was encouraging. 

"'Dear Jacqueline, public records indicate that you are eligible to vote in 2020,'" Tarleton said, as she read the letter. "And I said, 'That's really good news.' I already knew that, but I thought, 'That's great.'"

But as she read it, she felt it was intimidating.

"I continue to read. And it said, 'We will be reviewing these records after the election to determine whether or not you joined your neighbors in voting,'" Tarleton said. "What? Wow. I couldn't believe it. I was so surprised that somebody is going to look at my voting record to see if I voted."

The letter lists Tarleton's voter participation records, along with the records of two unidentified neighbors. The letter has censored their names and house numbers.

Credit: Jacqueline Tarleton
This is the letter Pflugerville resident Jacqueline Tarleton said the Center for Voter Information sent her through the mail several days ago. KVUE has censored her address and her neighbors' address for privacy reasons. (CVI only censored the neighbors' names and their house numbers in the unaltered letter.)

Tarleton said she voted days prior to receiving the letter. The letter said the group would be "disappointed" if she didn't vote during this election and would call her to ask her why not.

The letter left her feeling uneasy.

"It was intimidating because they're going to determine whether or not I joined my neighbors in voting and made me question, 'Well, how closely are you watching me and my neighbors?'" she said. "If I had received this before voting, this would have hit me even harder."

KVUE reached out to the Center for Voter Information with Tarleton's concerns. A spokesperson sent the following response on behalf of its president and CEO, Tom Lopach:

"The Center for Voter Information (CVI) is a non-partisan and non-profit group based in Washington, DC. With COVID-19 impacting elections, we have a responsibility to do all we can to safely increase voter turnout amid this uncertain time. That sometimes includes sending helpful prompts to voters, to encourage them to participate in democracy. We feel it is vital to keep voters safe and to bring democracy to eligible voters’ doorsteps. In our history, we are proud to report that we have helped more than 5 million people register to vote, and have helped many more vote from home or in-person this year.”

KVUE shared Lopach's statement with Tarleton. She said the letter didn't come across the way Lopach had described it. 

"If they had said exactly the response that you were given, I would have received it better. I would have understood what I was reading. And instead, that's not the way it came across. It came across that they're looking at my neighbors and they're comparing our voting record and they're looking a little bit too closely at what I'm doing," she said.

KVUE also reached out about the letter to the Travis County Clerk's Office. A spokesperson said if a voter calls the office about a concern with a similar letter, the voter is told it's from a third-party group and there's nothing the office can do about it.

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