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Secret Ballots?

The votes we cast in the presidential election tomorrow will be secret, but the candidates and parties that we supported with our financial donations are public knowledge that’s now incredibly easy to access on the web. If you want to look up the political contributions of anyone–CEOs, celebrities, the guy in the next cubicle, or the families who live on your blocks–check out Fundrace Neighbor Search. (You can search by name, address, or zip).

In web parlance the site is incredibly “sticky”–if you’re a political junkie, you might be stuck there for hours. But it raises all kinds of interesting questions, especially in light of yesterday’s cover story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine about evangelicals targeting the workplace. With this kind of tool, a boss can look up the political affiliations of a potential employee (even though you can’t legally ask that question in a job interview). An owner or executive can decide to do business only with people who share their own political bent. Of course, there are ways to fly under the radar: The website doesn’t include many people who gave less than $200 at any one time to a candidate or party or who gave to 527s.

While as a journalist I like the easy ability to dig up facts, I’m fearful of how this information actually might be used in a polarized society. What do you think?

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