The GOP is trying to convince Iowa voters on Facebook that their neighbors will know if they voted Republican.
Screenshots of Facebook ads, promoted by the official Facebook page of the Republican National Committee feature an ominous message: “NOTICE: All Voting Is Public.” The ad tell voters that “In a few months, Iowa will release the list of individual who voted in this election.” Most troublingly, the ad includes an arial view of a neighborhood with checkmarks indicating that “These People Voted GOP.”
It is true that voter participation in elections in public information. But how a someone voted, including what party they voted for, is not. The secret ballot has long been considered a hallmark of American democracy.
The ad is a variation of a GOTV (Get Out The Vote) strategy called “vote shaming.” The tactic is employed by liberals and conservatives to use social psychology to increase the chances that people vote. In every state but Virginia, whether or not you participated in an election is public. “[I]f you publicize something, it has a very powerful effect on behavior,” Chris Larimer, an Iowa political scientist, told USA Today in 2012.
The Facebook ads at issue go beyond traditional “vote shaming” by strongly implying that their ballot will not be secret. Two Facebook users who posted screenshots of the ad on social media confirmed to ThinkProgress that they had seen the ads on their Facebook newsfeed.
The RNC and the Iowa GOP did not return requests for comments.