Cruz campaign mailer tries to motivate caucus-goers with shame and suspicious voting grades

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Ted Cruz Gets Called Out for Misleading "Voting Violation" Mailer

Last week, the Independent Journal Review discovered that Ted Cruz's presidential campaign was sending out mailers in Iowa that attempted to use social pressure to drive voters to the polls. The mailers, which said "VOTING VIOLATION" at the top, offered recipients a report-card-like evaluation of their and their neighbors' voting history, complete with real-looking scores and poor resulting grades. The mailers also, of course, encouraged recipients "CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE," and drag their neighbors along too. They even suggested, as a little extra motivation, that a follow-up grade might be issued following the caucuses.

Written at the bottom, the mailers add that "Voting registration and voter history records are public records distributed by the Iowa Secretary of State and/or county election clerks. This data is not available for use for commercial purposes -- use is limited by law. Scores reflect participation in recent elections."

See more of Cruz on the campaign trail:

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Cruz campaign mailer tries to motivate caucus-goers with shame and suspicious voting grades
STAFFORD-MARCH 1: Ted Cruz holds his victory rally at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas. On the left is his wife, Heidi and their two daughters and on the right is the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick. (Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands on stage during a Super Tuesday night event in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, greets attendees with his wife Heidi Cruz and children during a campaign event in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Local Captions *** Ted Cruz; Heidi Cruz
US Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Dallas, Texas on February 29, 2016 one day before the 'Super Tuesday' primaries. Americans in a dozen states head to the polls for a slew of primaries and caucuses March 1 on what is considered the most important day of the presidential nominations calendar. / AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, arrives for a campaign rally near the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Ga., February 27, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) greets people during a campaign rally at the Mach Industrial Group on February 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The process to select the next Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates continues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) arrives at a campaign event at the Gateway Hotel on January 30, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 31: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to Iowa voters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds January 31, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The U.S. presidential election kicks off tomorrow with the state's caucuses. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C) greets an audience member as he is introduced at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Freedom Country Store, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Freedom, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Washington, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Shown is Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shadow as he speaks during a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Hollis, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Delaney Anne tries to make a selfie with Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Tilton, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, campaigns at Penny's Diner in Missouri Valley, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 17: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Siena Community Center on December 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two days after participating in the fifth GOP presidential debate, Cruz began a swing through eight Super Tuesday states in five days. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall meeting at Furman University on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, during the Rising Tide Summit at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to supporters on the Statehouse steps in Concord, N.H., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, after filing papers to be on the nation's earliest presidential primary ballot. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leads a moment of silence for victims of the San Bernardino shooting prior to his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Candidates spoke and took questions from Jewish leaders and activists. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shops for jewelry from ChildVoice International with his daughters Catherine, left, and Caroline during a campaign stop at the Deerfield Fair Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Deerfield, N.H. ChildVoice International is a non-profit organization seeking to restore the voices of children silenced by war.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, speaks with fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a rally opposing the Iran nuclear deal outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. A revolt among U.S. House Republicans delayed action on the Iran nuclear deal today as some members insisted they aren't bound by a Sept. 17 deadline in their efforts to kill the agreement. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, center, right, posses for a photo with Timothy Lewis after a campaign event at the Stockyards in Forth Worth, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Photographed through attendees, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Americans for Prosperity Road to Reform event Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 21: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to supporters at his Religious Liberty Rally on August 21, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Earlier in the day Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) visited and spoke to guests at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, eats a pork chop at the Iowa Pork Producers tent during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Republican presidential candidate Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 8: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spends a few moments with his daughter Catherine before the start of the Cruz bus tour rally in a field behind Sprayberry's BBQ in Newnan, Ga., on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, awaits for the elevator doors to close as he arrives in the basement of the Capitol, July 29, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a Anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a Senate deal to vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood before the Senate goes into recess in August. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters following a rare Sunday Senate session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Senior Senate Republicans lined up Sunday to rebuke Cruz for attacking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an extraordinary display of intraparty division played out live on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 23: Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks out against the nuclear deal with Iran during a demonstration that was interrupted by counter protestors in Lafayette Park across the the street from the White House in Washington, DC on July 23, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, July 18, 2015. The sponsor, The FAMiLY LEADER, is a 'pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life organization which champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
AMES, IA - JULY 18: Republican presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz of Texas fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. According to the organizers the purpose of The Family Leadership Summit is to inspire, motivate, and educate conservatives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands outside while waiting to speak during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015. The annual Faith & Freedom Coalition Policy Conference gives top-tier presidential contenders as well as long shots a chance to compete for the large evangelical Christian base in the crowded Republican primary contest. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participates in a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The hearing is billed as 'Rewriting The Law, Examining the Process That Led to the ObamaCare Subsidy Rule'. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a press conference at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Seneca, South Carolina, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Cruz says Donald Trump sent his lawyers cease and desist letters over a Cruz campaign ad that portrays Trump as pro-choice saying that if the Cruz campaign doesn't pull ad, they'll see immediate legal action to prevent the continued broadcast of this ad, according to Cruz. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The only problem is that's really, really misleading, according to the actual Iowa Secretary of State, Republican Paul Pate, who as BuzzFeed News points out, strongly rebuked the Cruz campaign after learning of the mailers:

"Today I was shown a piece of literature from the Cruz for President campaign that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law. Accusing citizens of Iowa of a 'voting violation' based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act. There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses."

Pate also explained how voters are never graded based on their participation, and neither the state nor local election officials track caucus participation in the first place. Voter records are also sold to campaigns, not distributed, he said.

The Cruz campaign is generally thought to have one of the the best Iowa ground games in action this cycle, and case-in-point, they used real political science to come up with these mailers. A 2008 study out of Yale indicated that voters were indeed more likely to vote if they felt their participation would be made public after the fact. To get deeper into that, the Washington Post's Dave Weigel talked to Iowa political scientist Christopher Larimer:

"As a researcher who has done randomized field experiments with get out the vote mailings," Larimer wrote in an email, "what I can say is that mailings that call attention to an individual's vote history as well as that of their neighbors' have been shown to be effective in terms of significantly increasing voter turnout. We draw on norm compliance theory which suggests that publicizing behavior regarding a social norm increases the likelihood of norm compliance."

That was if the ad was crafted in a smart way. "The Cruz mailing is more negative than anything we have done and has the potential to elicit a negative response or what psychologists call 'reactance' or 'boomerang effect,'" warned Larimer.

And there's another problem. Though the neighbors' names on the mailer seem to be real, the participation "scores" are likely fake, as the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza discovered:

Dave Peterson, who happens to be a political scientist at Iowa State University and is well-acquainted with the research on "social pressure" turnout techniques, received a mailer last week. The Cruz campaign pegged his voting percentage at fifty-five per cent, which seems to be the most common score that the campaign gives out. (All of the neighbors listed on Peterson's mailer also received a score of fifty-five per cent.)

Peterson, who is actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, moved to Iowa in 2009. He told me that he has voted in three out of the last three general elections and in two out of the last three primaries.

"There are other people listed on my mailer who live in my neighborhood that are all different ages, but everyone on this sheet has the same score of fifty-five per cent," he said. "Some are significantly younger and would have not been eligible to vote in these elections, and others are older and have voted consistently going back years. There is no way to get to us all having the same score."

So far, the Cruz campaign has been anything but repentant, insisting that the mailers are common practice, and that these specific ones used "very narrow" targeting, according to IJReview. And Cruz himself told reporters on Saturday that "I will apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote." Lizza got campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier on the record as well:

"This was a mailer designed from public information and modeled on past successful mailers used by the Iowa GOP to turn out voters, so that we can have as high of a turnout as possible on caucus day," she said. "I'll leave it at that." She did not explain the methodology used nor did she answer my question about whether the numbers were made up.

Sure enough, MoveOn controversially deployed similarly-themed mailers in 2012 to drive caucus participation, thought they didn't go nearly as far as the Cruz campaign's ones did:

Needless to say, many, including Cruz rivals Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have criticized the mailers, though Rubio may want to call his office:

And we all know that Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to point out someone else's bad press, especially if it reinforces the somewhat routine assertions that Cruz is a bit of a jerk:

Trump has also now referred to the mailers as "One of the most disgraceful things I've seen in politics ... I think it's one of the most horrible things in politics," which coming from Trump is, well, some sort of context.

Exactly which way actual voters will be motivated by the mailers isn't clear, but there is at least anecdotal evidence that some Republican voters have been turned off of Cruz because of the ads. One woman who received the mailer told Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker that "I'm crippled, so I can't go to the caucus," adding that when it comes to being shamed in front of her neighbors, "That's what you call a bully."

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