BRADENTON -- Amid voter uproar, the Citizens for a Better Florida political action committee backed away from a threat to reveal whether residents voted in the Nov. 4 election.
Before the election, a mailer from CBF was sent to targeted areas of the state, including Manatee County, that revealed the names of neighbors who voted, or didn't vote, in the prior two general elections and included the promise that "(t)his year, we are providing the names of your neighbors and their voting record. The next time we send this mailer, we will include information on who voted in this upcoming November election."
The Bradenton Herald received dozens of emails and phone calls from upset residents, all of whom expressed their displeasure at an attempt to shame them into voting. The Herald learned that the mailing process also was flawed in that CBF used addresses of registered voters and not names in their research. If another registered voter recently moved, the mailer identified them by name but used the voting record of the previous resident to reveal incorrect
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According to the Florida Division of Elections website, CBF shares the same address and phone number as the Orlando-based Florida Realtors and Realtors Political Advocacy Committee, which is listed as the primary funder of CBF. The Realtors PAC is primarily funded by the National Realtors Association, based in Chicago.
Campaign finance records show CBF spent money on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican candidates leading up to Tuesday's elections.
Florida Realtors Media Relations Director Marla Martin emphasized that CBF and Florida Realtors are not connected.
"They are a separate entity," said Martin, even though the two agencies share the same address and phone number.
"I am not a spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Florida, but since Florida Realtors is receiving the calls, I have been asked to call reporters back. After checking in with one of their members, I can confirm that there will not be a second mailer."
Martin said she has not been given any other information pertaining to the reason why CBF has backed away from its original promise or what the logic was behind the first mailer.
CBF continues to not answer its phone or return calls for comment.
CBF chair Richard Darling also has not returned calls from his direct number.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.