Monday, September 19, 2016
Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program (Updated)
Wow, what a cool official-sounding governmental program! Right? But what is it? First, it not a governmental program. Second, it is a highly partisan effort – not particularly well-disguised – to keep groups most likely to cast votes for liberal issues and Democratic candidates from being able to vote. We’ll learn more about this program below. This is in addition to those Republican-driven efforts to create voter ID laws – which are virtually always tossed out upon federal judicial review – and gerrymandering that redefines legislative and congressional districts into twisted and unnatural shapes and forms that minimize and dilute Democrats and enhance and over-represent Republicans.
Like having 4 out of the 5 Congressional districts that cover Austin, Texas – a very blue, liberal city – reach deeply into the distant countryside far away from the city to include enough conservative voters to make sure local Austin liberals are diluted into political oblivion. Any genuine Census data will tell you that traditional white Protestant voters, with old world rural values, are a rather distinct minority today, so the only way the GOP can control the majority of governorships, state legislatures and the House of Representatives is to make sure those rural traditionalists have more voting power than those from diverse urban regions, where over 80% of Americans live.
The messages from the GOP leadership is clear. Notwithstanding the lack of substantiating data of voter fraud or improprieties, the Republican Party is letting you know that “the election will be rigged” if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and that voter fraud is rampant, requiring strict voting oversight and tight restrictions. Donald Trump has even called for his constituency to monitor polling stations to make sure people do not vote twice and that they are truly American citizens eligible to vote. Partisan election monitors are uniformly viewed as unlawful and intimidating factors that are sufficient to challenge the validity of an entire election. We see the United Nations sending representatives to politically-challenged, corrupt, regimes to make sure such voter poll intimidation does not happen.
These partisan legislatures have passed their voter ID laws as quickly as they can… and these same statutes are deemed blatant and unconstitutional attempts to disenfranchise minorities by federal court almost as quickly as the legislatures pass them. But there are additional insidious efforts afoot to maximize GOP voting power and to extinguish or diminish those who are likely to choose Democrats. The August 24th Rolling Stone (Greg Palast) examined a very real Donald Trump camp anti-voter-fraud program (and the title of this blog), actually designed by one of Trump's advisers, that would deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November:
“When Donald Trump claimed, ‘the election's going to be rigged,’ he wasn't entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of ‘voting many, many times."’ What's far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.
“The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.
“Like all weapons of vote suppression, Crosscheck is a response to the imaginary menace of mass voter fraud. In the mid-2000s, after the Florida-recount debacle, the Bush administration launched a five-year investigation into the allegedly rampant crime but found scant evidence of wrongdoing. Still, the GOP has perpetuated the myth in every national election since. Recently, North Carolina Board of Elections chief Kim Strach testified to her legislature that 35,750 voters are ‘registered in North Carolina and another state and voted in both in the 2012 general election.’ [Rowling Stone Editor’s note: This quote was taken from the PowerPoint that accompanied Strach’s testimony. In a subsequent letter, she informed us that during her presentation she ‘stressed that we were not suggesting that 35,750 voters had committed any type of fraud. My testimony was that the data we received from the Crosscheck Program showed that in the 2012 general election, there were 35,750 people who voted in North Carolina whose first and last names and dates of birth matched persons who voted in the same election in another state.’] Yet despite hiring an ex-FBI agent to lead the hunt, the state has charged exactly zero double voters from the Crosscheck list. Nevertheless, tens of thousands face the loss of their ability to vote – all for the sake of preventing a crime that rarely happens. So far, Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects, yet we found no more than four perpetrators who have been charged with double voting or deliberate double registration…
“In our effort to report on the program, we contacted every state for their Crosscheck list. But because voting twice is a felony, state after state told us their lists of suspects were part of a criminal investigation and, as such, confidential. Then we got a break. A clerk in Virginia sent us its Crosscheck list of suspects, which a letter from the state later said was done ‘in error.’
The Virginia list was a revelation. In all, 342,556 names were listed as apparently registered to vote in both Virginia and another state as of January 2014. Thirteen percent of the people on the Crosscheck list, already flagged as inactive voters, were almost immediately removed, meaning a stunning 41,637 names were ‘canceled’ from voter rolls, most of them just before Election Day.
We were able to obtain more lists – Georgia and Washington state, the total number of voters adding up to more than 1 million matches – and Crosscheck's results seemed at best deeply flawed. We found that one-fourth of the names on the list actually lacked a middle-name match. The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr. A whole lot of people named ‘James Brown’ are suspected of voting or registering twice, 357 of them in Georgia alone. But according to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.”
In public these real vote-riggers, scream “voter fraud.” In private, they admit that they are the real vote manipulators. Like this little “secret” transgression: “Deep in a trove of leaked documents made public [mid-September] was the latest example of Republican candor over voter ID laws — this time in Wisconsin.
“There, as a tight race for election to the state’s Supreme Court came to a close in April 2011, conservative leaders wondered aloud how to respond should Justice David Prosser Jr. — a reliable opponent of legal challenges to the agenda of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican — go down in defeat.
“A senior vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, Steve Baas, had a thought. ‘Do we need to start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?’ he wrote in an email on April 6 to conservative strategists. ‘I obviously think we should.’
“Scott Jensen, a Republican political tactician and former speaker of the State Assembly, responded within minutes. ‘Yes. Anything fishy should be highlighted,’ he wrote. ‘Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts.’
“That email exchange, part of documents published by The Guardian on Wednesday with a report on Governor Walker’s political operations, was followed by a spate of public rumors of vote-rigging. A month later, legislators passed a state law requiring Wisconsin voters to display one of five types of approved photo IDs before casting ballots.
“The Wisconsin statute was part of a wave of voter ID laws enacted in the last six years, mostly by Republican-controlled legislatures whose leaders claimed that cheating at the ballot box is a routine occurrence.” New York Times, September 16th.
Bottom line, we have a political party that must believe that it cannot win an election if the vote is fairly cast. They must believe that their platform is so devoted to special interests (rich folks wishing to avoid taxes and financial/environmental regulation) and obsolete old-world rural social values rejected by a majority of Americans that it could never garner true majority support. It seems that cheating, lying and disenfranchising a vast array of Americans are means that justify their ends: to force on all Americans minority-desired, self-interested values not shared by most of us. If the GOP wants voter support, perhaps they should try a more relevant approach: embrace laws and policies that are good for most of us. For those who face this attempt at disenfranchisement today, the 2020 Census is coming… and they will remember!
I’m Peter Dekom, and the notion of one person, one vote is so basic to our form of democracy that those attempting to change that axiom are deeply un-American, incredibly unpatriotic and may well push this nation over the edge in what could become the “great unraveling” of the United States of America itself.