Voters who request absentee ballots can expect to be targeted by candidates and political groups of all stripes in the final week of the election, according to a report Monday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch
According to the newspaper, state elections officials have sold absentee voter information on 300,000 voters statewide, including names, street and email addresses, to various campaigns and groups in return for a what they call "a reasonable fee."
The practice is legal and has been going on nationwide for decades, even though most voters don't realize it, according to Bob Holsworth, a political analyst and former professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"I'm not sure that most people are aware that the simple request for an absentee ballot and the tracking of that ballot is available on a real-time basis to the parties," Holsworth told the Times-Dispatch, adding that most people view their vote as a "secret ballot, cast in the sanctity of the voting booth."
The campaigns, especially in the presidential race, use the information obtained from absentee ballot request to narrow their targeting efforts in battle ground states, so it's not unusual for absentee voters during a close contest be hit with mailing or telephone robocalls pushing one candidate over another.
"Both parties have these long lists with millions of names on them," Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center at Oregon's Reed College, told the Times-Dispatch. "It's a big checklist, and they're trying to check your name off."
In Virginia, a fee is charged by the state elections board for providing the information. But in many states, it's free and accessible online.
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