Voter Intimidation Active in Florida

A group supporting Republican candidates are using text messaging to bully registered voters.

I am a resident of Broward County, Florida. I live in the city of Plantation where a local man was recently arrested for targeting 13 people who are politicians and/or political supporters. He had sent homemade bombs to them in the mail. I live just over 12 miles away and on the same road as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were shot, murdered in cold blood. This is my neighborhood.

Like many registered voters in Florida, I have received a barrage of text messages to my phone this election season. This is the first election that I remember receiving such texts. At first I didn’t think much of the phenomenon. But when they kept coming I started to get agitated. That’s when I began to reply to the messages.

“Please Stop Texting Me,” I replied. As the texts kept coming I became more blunt in my replies. I must not have been the only one responding to these messages because I eventually began to receive them with instructions at the end telling me to type, “STOP” to opt out of future messages. I did so with those that gave this option.

But still the messages kept coming. Then I started getting texts from South Carolina - where I no longer live. Then I started getting texts that were intended for my wife.

A MoveOn volunteer who actually had the integrity to identify herself as a volunteer named Joan from Charleston, SC was one of these people who sent me a political text message intended for my wife. When I responded “This isn’t Jeannelle please don’t contact again.” she politely and appropriately responded “I am removing you from further texts from MoveOn immediately. Have a great day.”

This seemed like genuine progress. After all, this is how technology tends to get reformed. We identify a problem, we respond, and then the tech users or developers make the appropriate adjustments.

But just as I had this glimpse of hope for this new technological phenomenon, something else happened. Today, the day before the election, I received a different kind of text. And this one was meant to intimidate me. It read:

“Public Records will show whether you vote in this election or not. You and your neighbors can look up who voted. Be sure to vote: BeAVoterInFlorida.com”

Now wait a minute, you might think to yourself, this just seems like it is just some concerned citizens trying to get out the vote, right? Well, not so fast. I looked up BeAVoterInFlorida.com which, on the surface, seems like a pretty mundane webpage that helps people find their polling place. It says things like “It’s up to you to VOTE.” No big deal right?

Wrong. At the bottom of the page is a small box inside of which, in tiny letters is written: “Paid for by Club for Growth Action - Not Authorized By Any Candidate or Candidate’s Committee.” This statement is followed by, in an even smaller font, the web address - www.clubforgrowthaction.org.

If you type that web address into your browser you will be redirected to a clubforgrowth.org which is a site for “Fiscal conservatives on a mission: Winning Freedom. Electing Champions.” If look the group up on Wikipedia you’ll see that Club for Growth is a Political Action Committee. All throughout their site they are advocating for President Trump. Furthermore on their site they list the Republican candidates they endorse:

For the U.S. Senate:

Marsha Blackburn (TN)

Ted Cruz (TX)

Josh Hawley (MO)

Matt Rosendale (MT)

And from Florida, Rick Scott.

For the U.S. House of Representatives:

Dave Bratt (VA)

Ted Budd (NC)

Steve Chabot (OH)

Mark Harris (NC)

Scott Perry (PA)

Denver Riggleman (VA)

Dino Rossi (WA)

Chip Roy (TX)

Ross Spano (FL)

Micheal Cloud (TX)

Russ Fulcher (ID)

Mark Green (TN)

Greg Steube (FL)

Van Taylor (TX)

Ron Wright (TX)

Why does this matter? Because these people are texting me because they know from public record that I am registered as a Republican. What they are doing is trying shame me, peer pressure me, bully me and intimidate me into voting because they likely believe that, if I vote, I will vote Republican.

The text they sent implies that if I don’t vote, my neighbors will know. At the very least this is a highly insensitive message given local events of the last year here in Plantation, FL. At its worst – this is voter intimidation. Lest we forget that I have had “neighbors” in the last year who are terrorists and murderers.

This isn’t just an inappropriate use of technology, it is also inappropriate political behavior. As such, I call on all of the above political leaders to publicly denounce the said text message and the group who sent it. You may not have authorized this action but you have a responsibility to condemn it. If you don’t, you are effectively looking the other way.

The texting behavior is unethical and it preys on people. I think that people should not vote for candidates who fail to speak out against this kind of intimidation that is happening for their benefit. If the PAC did it to me you can bet that it is happening to others as well. Do the ethical thing politicians, denounce such intimidation today!

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. What responsibility do you think political leaders have to speak out against organizations that behaved badly when those organizations advocate for them and give them money?

Q2. What is your opinion of the modern political message texting phenomenon?

Q3. How do you think that politicians can better work to remain “beyond reproach” when associating with Political Action Committees?

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