A. Barton Hinkle on (Non)Voter-Shaming

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Steve Serrao got a report card in June. It listed him as a non-voter. His wife, Renee, who teaches government, strenuously disputes that. "We're contacting you and your neighbors today to let folks know who does and who doesn't vote," the report card says. "As you can see below, your neighbors who have voted are concerned about the community's well-being. Are you?" Nancy Meacham of Roanoke got a similarly ominous audit from the group in November—as did others around the state. Many of them felt, quite rightly, that the mailings amounted to rank voter intimidation. As A. Barton Hinkle writes, public shaming of this sort is nothing new; it has been used often throughout history—usually by exceedingly undemocratic and illiberal regimes, such as ancient Rome, Puritan America, contemporary Iran and 20th century communism.