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What do you think of AARP’s “Don’t Vote” campaign?

Original post made by Richard Hine, editor of The Almanac, on Oct 24, 2006

See info below. Click on "Add a comment" and give us your opinion.
Warren Slocum, San Mateo County’s chief elections officer, doesn't like the AARP's "Don't Vote" ad campaign. Check it out for yourself here:
Below is a press release from Warren Slocum.
PRESS RELEASE: Chief Elections Officer Asks AARP To Change Web Site: TV Commercial and Web Site Sends Wrong Message
Redwood City, CA - Warren Slocum, San Mateo County´s Chief Elections Officer today, the deadline to register to vote in California, called on the American Association of Retired Persons to change their web site entitled "don´t" Slocum said he is worried that the message may discourage people from going to the polls.
While the Chief Elections Officer recognizes the good work and dedication of the AARP, he said that "California spends a great deal of money to register voters, to educate voters and to get voters to cast ballots. Other organizations like the League of Women Voters, political parties and campaigns do the same. Everyone believes that large turnouts strengthen Democracy. "I am concerned that the commercial and web site may have an unintended consequence of dissuading qualified voters to cast a ballot," Slocum said.
In California, turnout rates vary from county to county but at the last statewide election the turnout was around 36% -- we need to find ways to get more people to vote and advertising plays a role in that effort. But our public messages need to be carefully crafted.
Slocum admits that the web site -- -- has a good side with a message that asks voters to find out where the candidates stand on the issues. It is always important for a voter to study candidate and issue information and be prepared to vote before going into the polling place.
But the TV commercial and the web site video features several people from different walks of life saying don´t vote -- don´t vote -- don´t vote. It is repeated seven times before someone says, "until you know the issues."
My job is to increase participation rates and given people’s busy lives; the constant bombardment of advertising messages; and the fact that one vote can change the outcome of an election, I don’t want the "don´t vote" message to be the only message that is heard before a voter changes the channel or clicks through to a new web page.
Contact: Warren Slocum, Phone 650.363.4988, Fax 650.363.1903, E-mail [email protected]

Comments (4)

Posted by Smart Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 24, 2006 at 3:25 pm

I couldn't disagree with Warren Slocum more. The AARP ad campaign is smart. First, it gets your attention. Then it delivers a great message: don't vote until you know what the heck you're doing.

For AARP's constituents -- those age 50 and over -- the emphasis is finding out how the candidates stand on such issues as Social Security and health care.

I think the campaign is smart for AARP. And it's smart for the Republic. You don't want dumb voters.

Posted by Concerned in Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 10:22 am

Discouraging people from voting doesn't seem like a good idea at all. Voting is one of our most valuable rights - just observing what it takes to vote in other parts of the world makes this easily apparent. It may be discouraging sometimes when issues and candidates on the ballot don't reflect our beliefs and opinions, but when supported this system of government is much better than other alternatives. Maybe what is required is not less involvement in the voting process but more involvement.

Posted by Avid Voter
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 25, 2006 at 11:37 am

We do need more informed voters, but AARP's advertising pitch doesn't seem appropriate. It's more a Madison Avenue gimmick to try to attract people's attention. It doesn't work for me.

Posted by Enfranchised and loving it
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 25, 2006 at 2:56 pm

AARP let a good idea down by pasting a trite slogan all over it.

This is either a dumb mistake or a very subtle political ploy -- there are plenty of groups that would benefit by seeing certain types of voters stay home on election day. "Get out the vote" tactics have a sinister parallel that is very real, but seldom spoken about: "Keep voters away."

Of course, one might argue that anyone who doesn't read past the first two words on a Web site probably isn't going to make the best informed voter.

AARP should have used my favorite slogan: "If you don't vote, you can't complain."

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