After months of constant repetition across all forms of media, political advertisements truly become unbearable this time of year. Those who reside in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District must be fed up by now with the non-stop marketing of Bruce Poliquin and Emily Cain. The unadulterated negativity pushed by PACs and other organizations involved in that race have driven me inches closer to insanity up here in Orono.
The good news is that I am not alone. People in other areas of the state are experiencing these troubles too, but from a source projecting attacks even more malicious in nature, but directly at voters.
Bonnie Brinegar, of New Portland, went to the press last week up in arms about a political mailer she received from the (PTP), a PAC that urges “sporadic Democratic voters” in competitive congressional districts to vote in upcoming elections.
Their single mission, as described on the PTP’s website, reads: “Get Democrats to the polls. We design, test and execute specialized voter turnout programs targeting sporadic Democratic voters in the most competitive congressional districts in the country.”
The mailer Brinegar received included her voting record, which didn’t bother her according to a WCSH feature. Instead, Brinegar was furious over a threatening line included in the mailer and incorrect information regarding her voting record that was printed on the document. The letter scored Brinegar at “2/4” for not having voted in the 2008 and 2014 General Elections.
“If they would go tell my family, friends and neighbors about me not voting, it’s not accurate to begin with,” Brinegar told WCSH.
Brinegar was particularly upset with one of the last lines of the letter, which she considered a threat and form of voter intimidation.
“How would your family and neighbors feel if they saw your voting record and knew you were an infrequent voter?,” the mailer read.
Brinegar had already voted early, a full week before receiving the mailer, which made this line unnerving for her.
“If you were going to essentially intimidate someone, or threaten them in any kind of manner, to get out and vote, you would think you would at least make sure your data is correct,” Brinegar told WLBZ.
Brinegar calls the PTP’s 2016 political strategy and the mailer “ineffective and unhelpful” according to WCSH, and hopes her story will prompt Maine election officials to investigate the PAC and the mailer they have circulated as voter intimidation.
“Take out the sections of it that sound like a threat,” Brinegar said.
Brinegar’s story highlights the ugly side of this election season, and it is telling of how most Mainers feel when they become the target of non-stop political ads by out of state interest groups for months leading up to an election. Many of these advertising campaigns spread foggy versions of the truth, and others frequently get too personal for voters and cross moral or ethical boundaries, much like the mailer from the PTP.
While the PTP intends to enhance civic engagements as described in their mission, their methods are intimidating to Maine voters and make them feel victimized for choosing, or not choosing, to exercise their constitutional rights. These types of tactics truly are deplorable, and organizations like PTP will soon learn, these methodologies are ineffective.
A Democratic candidate for Senate recently shared with me a story about a time he was knocking on doors in a former mill town roughly a year ago, not long after the mill had shut down and many of the townspeople had lost their job. When talking with his constituent about the issues most important to them, the former mill worker wouldn’t stop talking about how disgruntled they were about the negative advertising that had already started in the 2nd Congressional District Race.
Despite losing their job and living in economic depression, the constituent was infuriated with the non-stop solicitations. These types of campaigns do not sway opinions, but rather disengage even the most vulnerable voters from the political process.
Instead, these groups should be motivating voters and stressing the importance of carrying out your constitutional right, not shaming voting records and threatening to release false information.
And if organizations like the PTP wish to continue their actions of intimidating Maine voters, ethics regulators in Maine had best step up to the plate.