Voter Suppression - Part II

Author
Mark Johnston
Original Publication Date
06/26/2007
Voter Caging

Jacksonville Caging List: Impact

Analysis of Caged Data

Despite the fact that letters appeared to be sent broadly geographically, the RATE of acquisition of "caged" addresses was higher in the precincts in which Blacks are concentrated. One can determine the caging rate by evaluating the number of caged addresses per the total number of registered voters in a specific precinct. For example, in precinct 07R (with a Black population of 63.6%), there were 67 addresses "caged" from a population of 1733 registered voters. Thus, the rate of caging is 38.7 addresses per 1000 registered voters. more ...

 

That "voter fraud" was on her mind when responding to allegations about the caging list suggests that challenging voter registration was imagined as a potential use of the list. Indeed, court filings in the Ohio caging case and documents obtained at GeorgeWBush.org (see below) clearly indicate the caging lists were to be used to mount pre-election and election-day challenges throughout the country.

If we consider that the list was prepared by and for Republicans, it is logical to consider that challenges might be made against only Democratic voters. Documents discovered in the Ohio case revealed that the RNC was involved in creating caging lists in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, and Nevada. An incriminating email was sent to Tim Griffin and Terry Nelson, Political Director of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. [see image of email]

As Ohio and Florida permit Election Day challenges by partisan "Poll Watchers", Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada were key "swing states" in 2004, and Republican caging lists might have been compiled to mount challenges to voter registrations for "swinging" the election.

Despite the "best laid plans" to suppress voters in key precincts in the 2004 elections, caging lists were not used to make Election day challenges in Jacksonville and there is no evidence of caging-based challenges in Ohio. The interim elections supervisor for Duval County, Bill Scheu, reported that there were no challenges at the polls in Duval County on Election Day, 2004. Challenges in Florida require a written affidavit from the challenger and result in generation of a provisional ballot. According to a Florida Department of State Division of Elections report there were 2714 provisional ballots generated in Duval County. Ultimately, 1215 provisional ballots were counted and about 1499 rejected.

None of the identified voters from the 2004 caging list cast a provisional ballot. Of the 1654 identified voters 1515 were eligible to vote and 534 of these cast a ballot. Although there is no evidence that the Jacksonville caging list was used to make Election Day challenges or change voter rolls to block voters in the 2004 election, the list was almost certainly intended to do so.

Why were there no Election Day challenges by Republican poll workers in Duval County in 2004? Although it was stayed in the afternoon of Election Day, the decision in the Ohio case precluding election-day challenges based on caging lists could have played a role in preventing caging list use in Florida. According to Daniel Tokaji, an election law expert at Ohio State University, there were also three other pre-election legal cases "challenging the challengers" in Ohio that added to the confusion over whether polling place challenges would be permitted. The combination of these legal challenges and the RNC‘s affidavit stating they were not involved in removing qualified voters from the voter rolls with Greg Palast’s BBC report on the Florida caging list and the RNC’s known role in caging operations may have led to a reluctance to call further attention to caging by making election-day challenges in Duval County.

Why 2004 Caging is Important Today

Recently, the 2004 caging issue has resurfaced. After the en masse firing of US Attorneys in December, 2006, Congress initiated investigations of the circumstances of the firings and focused attention on the qualifications of the attorneys chosen as replacements. Although not a part of the "prosecutor purge," it has been revealed that the US Attorney in Arkansas, Bud Cummins, was asked to resign to provide a US Attorney position for Timothy Griffin. Griffin, as documented above, was centrally involved in the effort to acquire caging lists for voter suppression in 2004.

Many organizations and individuals are dedicated to preventing voter suppression, including the Advancement Project and The Brennan Center for Justice. Effective efforts to oppose voter suppression rely on well-substantiated and researched claims. Due to the sensitive nature of any such claims, the foundation of defense against voter suppression requires that any allegation be verified. Unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or otherwise incorrect information cannot be used to effectively contest voter suppression.

Why is Griffin's role in caging important? Griffin was the RNC's Research Director and Deputy Communications Director. His receipt of the caging list, at the very minimum, documents RNC involvement in caging voters. Because the process of caging preferentially acquired minority names and addresses, the subsequent use of caging lists to challenge voters at the polls may have violated the 1982 consent decree preventing voter suppression efforts aimed minority voters. That Griffin and other RNC staff were involved in the Jacksonville caging efforts is an ironic counterpoint to sworn declaration of Deputy RNC Chairman Maria Cino in the Ohio caging case, where she told the judge that the RNC was not "involved" in any efforts to remove qualified voters from the voter rolls.

Griffin's involvement in caging during the 2004 elections has certainly been a cause for concern relating to his appointment as interim AG in Arkansas as well as to the motivations off the DOJ and White House in their Prosecutor Purge. Caging warrants the attention the highest levels of government and concerned citizens – since it has been notoriously used to suppress minority votes in the past. Clearly, further investigation focusing on the 2004 RNC’s and Bush-Cheney campaign’s role in caging both in Ohio and in Duval County, Florida will help ensure that racially biased voter suppression schemes are not a part of our political process.

ePluribus Media Contributors: standingup, publius revolts, Aaron Barlow, BronxDem