PA voters upset about Libertarian group's 'vote history audit' letters

Registered voters in Pennsylvania have contacted election officials in at least eight counties since receiving a "vote history audit" letter from Americans for Limited Government, a Libertarian group active in conservative political issues and campaigns.

The letter cites the voting history, dating back to 2004, of the recipient and their neighbors. One letter obtained by PhillyClout was sent to a Butler County woman, citing her voting history, her husband's history and the history of six neighbors. The letter promises that ALG records will be updated after Tuesday's general election and an updated voter audit will be mailed out.

County election officials have been sharing complaints about the letter, which was dated Oct. 22, via an online chat group.  The two most common complaints: Voters feel their privacy has been invaded and they say the information in the audit is inaccurate.

Richard Manning, ALG's communications director, said the letter is meant to increase voter turn-out.  He noted that and the AFL-CIO use voter lists to send out election materials too.

"Using publicly available information, we have been able to identify voters who have a tendency to vote but for whatever reason have failed to do so at the most critical moments," Manning wrote in an email. "We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds."

Everyone is not applauding, judging by ALG's Facebook page, where most commenters are livid about the letter and angry that they can't get through on the phone to ALG's office in Fairfax, Virginia to complain.

Manning said the group has been having phone trouble since Hurricane Sandy knocked out power at the ALG office. But clearly some complaints are getting through. 

Citing a "frequently asked question," Manning said the information in the letters comes from a contractor who compiled public records.  While the group was hoping for 100 percent accuracy, "inevitably an extremely small percentage had entry errors," Manning said.

Philadelphia City Commissioners Stephanie Singer and Al Schmidt on Friday said they have received no calls from local voters regarding the letter.

ALG's chairman is Howard Rich, a real estate investor profiled by the Center for Responsive Politics at in June.  His wife, Andrea Millen Rich, runs the Center for Independent Thought, a Libertarian think tank in Philadelphia.