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(UPDATED) Marriage Amendment Boosters: Opponents 'Intimidating' Voters

Facebook app lets amendment opponents predict votes.

This week, conservatives pushing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage have been decrying what they say is "intimidation" from their opponents.

At issue is a new Facebook app from Minnesotans United for All Families, called "The kNOw Tool." According to a story in CityPages, prominent amendment supporters are taking to social media, saying the tool will let MN United campaign workers bully and badger same-sex marriage opponents. In an interview with Patch, an MN United spokesperson categorically rejected the claims from Minnesota for Marriage spokesperson Andy Parrish and amendment backer state Rep. Mary Franson.

The app essentially lets MN United supporters participate in a phone bank from the comfort of their own homes. First, a voter identifies the Facebook friends they want to call. Then, the kNOw Tool website prompts them to call their friend, and record the person's stance on the marriage amendment. If the caller wants, they can even request a MN United campaign worker give their Facebook friend a follow-up phone call to try to convince them further, or remind them to get out to the polls on election day. 

On Wednesday, Parrish tweeted:

Are your neighbors voting YES for marriage Public #VoteNo database allows you to look them up. #intimidate #stribpol

CityPages reports that, in a Facebook post, Franson called the kNOw Tool a way "to see who doesn't support (MN United's) way of thinking." 

"Talk about a vile way to win," she added.

On inspection of the app, Patch can confirm that it does not, in fact, let the average user look up whether a person is likely to vote yes or no on the amendment.

"The claim that you can look up people who are voting yes is an outrageous lie," MN United spokesperson Kate Brickman told Patch in an interview.

Brickman said that some of the confusion could have come from a Facebook post from MN United campaign manager Richard Carlbom, who said that the app would match supporters' friends lists with a separate list of "targeted voters." Brickman said that Carlbom's wording was innaccurate.

The app does let MN United track likely "yes" and "no" votes and it encourages supporters to call friends they think will vote "no," she said, but it is no different from the many traditional phone banks both sides of the issue are using as critical components of their respective campaigns

"This gives people an opportunity to continue having these conversations on their own time from comfort of their own homes," Brickman said. 

The "Vote No" campaign is predicating much of their strategy on what they call "personal conversations" between coworkers, friends, and relatives. 

"Our research shows that people are 67 percent more likely to vote "No" when they have personal conversation with someone they know who'll be personally impacted" by a same-sex marriage ban," Brickman said. "It's important that our supporters talk to the people in their lives. In California the people who already felt strongly about voting no (on Proposition 8) assumed that a lot of the people in their lives knew their positions and were voting no, as well."

With polls showing the vote evenly split between amendment supporters and opponents, it's a sure bet that both sides will be looking at every way they can to get an edge on the other side.

Ed. Note: This story was updated on Sept. 18 at 12:03 p.m. to include comments from Minnesotans United for All Families.

Stafford Christensen September 18, 2012 at 05:32 PM
It sounds like a volunteer site - as in it's not open to the public; one would need a username/password given to them by a volunteer site administrator to login and see any information. There are similar programs used for party primaries, for example, to keep track of who in your neighborhood supports which candidate for records and measuring. So I would say that it's not voter intimidation unless a volunteer begins broadcasting the results of the private site publicly on the web.
Jon Eisenberg September 19, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Actually a user enrolled on their own setting up their own password, but that does NOT give the user access to anything other than a list of their friends and a tool to call them and check in with them on the amendment. It's simply a tool to assist with democracy and free speech.
Joan Harig September 19, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I would unfriend anyone who used the now popular tactic of social mockery to leverage my vote or gain an advantage for their position by using our friendship to limit the privacy of the ballot. It's bad enough that they copy every link from their political position and post it. To call me like a used car salesman is an insult. I value my friends from many political viewpoints and our respectful discussions.
Jon Eisenberg September 19, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Don't worry, there is no tactic in use involving "social mockery." (Such a tactic would be completely ineffective anyway.) The only tactic in use is public education and polite, cordial conversations between one voter and another. Everyone can relax. Friends can always call or have coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner with another friend whenever they want. People can discuss their views respectfully. This is America where we openly discuss and debate issues of public policy.
Joan Harig September 19, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Let me try this again. Above was my first post on a public forum like this one and I am quickly learning how easy it is to not say things well when trying to be succint and issues are hot. As a thoughtful voter who votes issues and candidates instead of a straight party line and is in the 6% undecided on several things, I value social media like facebook to keep in touch with my friends who are socialist to right wing. They post and I read or don't as I choose. Their ideas challenge me in the circle of our friendship. I would rather hear more about the dig for cultural finds in Arizona, see pictures of their now thriving sick child or travel pictures or that they are supporting a food shelf instead of hot button political rehash. I don't like the new method being talked about because I think it will inhibit civil discourse and not encourage it. To me it is a violation of the privacy of our circle of friendship. Their lives are a better pitch than any PC automessage from any political entity. I looked Mr. Eisenberg up and realize he is a lawyer and political activist for the separation of church and state. I was not stating my political opinion on the amendment, it is too complex to fit here. I do resectfully disagree with him on the facebook issue and think being sales called and reported by a friend to a political entity is a violation of trust and could be socially intimidating when meant to be public education. Keep facebook as a way to pull us together.

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