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EvergreenHealth Foundation sends apparent ‘voter-shaming’ mailers

Some Eastside voters feel that King County Public Hospital District 2, Kirkland’s EvergreenHealth hospital, seems to be resorting to some unhealthy tactics to get votes for its Proposition 1 “EverHealthy” campaign.

The 20-year, $345 million bond on Tuesday’s primary ballot would fund the second phase of the hospital’s 10-year capital improvement plan, including seismic upgrades, upgraded critical care and family maternity sections, and a new building for programs including outpatient mental health. The bond would extend the current bond’s tax rate of $0.29 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for two more decades after it expires in 2023.

Redmond resident Brenda* was offended when she found an Evergreen Health Prop. 1 campaign flier — sponsored by the EvergreenHealth Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for the hospital — in her mailbox last Thursday designed like a student’s report card.

“Public records from the King County Elections Department indicate you received a C on your Voter Report Card,” the flier stated, with the “C” in a large red circle akin to a teacher’s markings.

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“I was amazed to see that, first of all, I got a C, because I’m a very good voter,” Brenda told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

But it was the back of the card that upset her the most. In a chart, Brenda was compared with the first names and last initials of four of her neighbors (with their last names left out), with check marks showing who had voted in each year of primary elections since 2015.

“One thought is that they were trying to encourage me to vote, which is commendable, but to compare my records to the neighbors’ records — completely unacceptable,” Brenda said.

Brenda had a red X for both 2017 and 2018, indicating that she hadn’t voted in the primary election those years.

She said that the public revelation of this information was not only humiliating, but it was inaccurate — she had actually voted in those elections.

Lena* in Redmond received a similar mailer — except that she received a D and her chart showed that she only voted in the 2016 primaries. In an email to the Dori Monson Show, she stated that this information, too, was inaccurate.

“It shows I voted once in the primaries in the last four years, which is not true, making me wonder if my ballots aren’t making it,” Lena wrote. “However, what really made me angry is that it stacked me against my neighbors showing their first name and last initials with if they voted or not in the last four years of primaries … I can’t believe this is legal. ”

While the way in which people vote is confidential, the knowledge of whether or not they voted at all and in what years is in fact public record.

Still, voting is normally an extremely private matter — so much so that voters in Washington are given secrecy envelopes inside their mailing envelopes, to ensure that ballots are completely hidden. With that in mind, Brenda was surprised that the campaign would reveal people’s information like this. It made her wonder if the hospital is as quick to reveal patients’ medical information.

“Every foundation’s mission is to promote community well-being and to include people to support all their efforts, and this was in no way supportive of what they’re trying to achieve,” Brenda said.

When Brenda contacted the EvergreenHealth Foundation, a representative told her that they didn’t know who created, authorized, and mailed the cards.

Lena said that she would be sending a message to the Approve Prop. 1 — Evergreen Health campaign office letting them know that she was now voting against them.

EvergreenHealth Foundation responds

Kae Peterson, executive director of the EvergreenHealth Foundation, said that the foundation is profusely sorry; the fliers were simply meant to boost voter turnout during a primary, when people are sometimes so busy with summer activities that they forget to vote.

“We are just so, so sorry that this mailer caused this kind of backlash,” Peterson said. “Our intent was really just to get voter turnout, but we certainly did not ever intend to shame anyone or bully anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable whatsoever.”

The foundation’s consultant used only public information, she stressed.

“We never would violate someone’s personal information,” she said.

As to Brenda’s concern that hospital records could be revealed as easily as voting records, Peterson assured voters that these are two vastly different types of information.

“People should know with 100-percent trust that we would never violate their Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rights in this way,” she said. “Those are two completely different things, because your HIPAA records are not public record.”

She assured voters that nothing like this will ever happen at the EvergreenHealth Foundation again.

*Last name left out at personal request

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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