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Jane sent me this article a couple of days ago, and I can’t tell you how horrified I was when I read it.

Here’s the article in full for those of you who can’t be arsed to follow the link:

Ezra Klein, editor of The American Prospect writes:

It’s baffling that a country that so prides itself on being a democracy doesn’t take the legitimacy of its democratic process more seriously. A good example is vote purging. “Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls.

Yet state and local officials regularly remove — or ‘purge’ — citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.” The problem, as this Brennan Center report concludes, is that our voter purges are not being done properly. Not even close:

Over the past several years, every single purge list the Brennan Center has reviewed has been flawed. In 2004, for example, Florida planned to remove 48,000 “suspected felons” from its voter rolls.

Many of those identified were in fact eligible to vote. The flawed process generated a list of 22,000 African Americans to be purged, but only 61 voters with Hispanic surnames, notwithstanding Florida’s sizable Hispanic population.

To compound the problem, the purge list over-represented African Americans and mistakenly included thousands who had had their voting rights restored under Florida law. Under pressure from voting rights groups, Florida ordered officials to stop using the purge list. To compound the problem, the purge list over-represented African Americans and mistakenly included thousands who had had their voting rights restored under Florida law.

In New Jersey in 2005, the Brennan Center worked with a political science professor to analyze a purge list prepared by a political party using “matching” techniques. We found that the list was compiled using a number of faulty assumptions and that it would have harmed eligible voters if used as the basis for a purge.

In 2006, the Secretary of State of Kentucky attempted to purge the state’s rolls based on a flawed attempt to identify voters who had moved from Kentucky to neighboring South Carolina and Tennessee. A resulting lawsuit uncovered the fact that eligible voters who had not, in fact, moved out of the state of Kentucky were caught up in the purge; a state court ordered the state to reverse the purge.

The purges reviewed for this report give no greater grounds for comfort. While the reasons vary from state to state, no state reviewed in this report uses purge practices or procedures that are free from risk of error or manipulation, that have sufficient voter protections, or that have adequate procedures to catch and correct errors.

The problems are systemic. The lists are error-ridden. The purges are done in secret, with no notice to voters or attempts to double-check the results among those affected. The matching programs are crude, and tend to toss out multiple people with the same name even though only one is actually being targeted.

The voter protections are absent, as is the oversight. There’s no governing standard, and methods vary on the state, and even the county, level. And, strangely enough, these problems tend to cluster when it comes to purges of low-income and minority voters, who experience higher levels of disenfranchisement.

Whether or not all eligible citizens have access to the franchise is, with no overstatement, the most fundamental test of a democracy. We too frequently fail it. And because those failures tend to systematically benefit certain political factions and effect marginalized communities, there’s no urgency behind a fix, much less consensus. It’s shameful.

Wow. Just….wow.

In England, every citizen of voting age is sent an electoral register form to fill out, every six months or so. If you don’t fill the form out, then you’re not eligible to vote in any of the forth-coming elections. That puts the responsibility firmly in the hands of the citizens. This is a far cry from having your name scrubbed off the list by accident, or because you weren’t the right colour.

And to not even inform the people who are being scrubbed from the lists beforehand, so that they can at least question their removal? Absolutely disgusting.

This is beyond effed up, and whoever gets voted in needs to look at some kind of federal law that addresses this issue methinks.


  • My country is falling apart.


  • I like the system used in the UK~makes sense to me.


  • I read an article that Janet at DA had linked about this ‘voting purge’ during the 2000 elections and it was absolutely horrifying. I was beyond shocked at what I read and a lot of it happened in Florida. And we all remember what happened after the election. Fixing at it’s most flagrant.

    Canada has something similar as Englan. We all get a card in the mail sometime before the election (which by the way we ourselves are having next week!) And even if we misplace the card when it comes time to vote, as long as you have picture identification, you can still vote.
    I am constantly amazed myself at the lack of people who vote in elections. My parents were firm believers in the democratic process and I have never missed voting in all the years I’ve been able to. To me it’s an obligation, a privilege and a right as a citizen of the country.
    I admit I don’t understand the whole US system where you have to register to vote. You register once here and that’s it – you are on the registry for life. And the list is also party neutral.


  • Well, when I lived in North Dakota, we don’t even have voter registration. You just show up on election day with ID. Nice and easy. Of course, it’s the only state that doesn’t require voter registration.


  • The UK system is good overall but can be a bit tough if your are a seasonal worker or homeless as it requires the government having an up to date address.


  • I listen to POTUS 08 nearly everyday. One of the guests was Allen Raymond. He was a republican strategist who went to prison for illegally suppressing the vote.


    It sounded incredibly easy to affect voting in a negative way.


  • Sparky
    October 7
    4:49 pm

    The fact they don’t even take pains to inform people AND that they are so very sloppy about it speaks not of incompetence – but a very unpleasant COMPETENCE with disgusting aims.

    And I firmly believe everyone should vote – people fought and died to get us this right but it’s too much effort for us to move off our lazy backsides and drag ourselves to a voting booth or fill out a postal vote? It’s an insult to those who came before us that we treat their work and sacrifice so poorly

    Besides, if you don’t vote you don’t get to bitch, and I do so like bitching


  • Dee
    October 7
    5:29 pm

    There was a piece on this issue on CBS news last night for the coming election. Florida Law May Disenfranchise New Voters

    I read an article earlier related to this same issue but I can’t find it now. This is more widespread than just Florida. I did find a blog with links to other stories about this problem. I didn’t go through and read all the links, but it seems to confirm what CBS news reported.


  • Robin
    October 7
    6:00 pm

    I’m hoping that the Spam filter won’t pick this up if I post the links the old fashioned way.

    This story was circulating in Britain during the 2000 election, but no one in the US was paying attention. In addition to the links I posted in that other thread, here are more:

    http://www.blackboxvoting.org/: a citizen voter watchdog group. The woman who started the group produced a documentary in which she travels around literally pulling voting tapes from garbage, despite the fact that those tapes are supposed to be saved and made part of the public record.

    http://www.uncountedthemovie.com/: this film has been playing on Starz this month, and it will stun you. If you can’t see the film, at least check out their issues page: http://www.uncountedthemovie.com/the-issues.html. They also have a blog: http://uncountedthemovie.com/blog/

    And here’s the original 2004 US story from The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20040517/palast


  • Robin
    October 7
    6:02 pm

    I submitted a comment that disappeared, so I’m assuming it’s in the spam folder, as it contained many links to related sites and articles.


  • Las
    October 7
    7:56 pm

    I’m not at all surprised, especially about Florida. Note: the vast majority of Latinos in Florida are Cuban, and Cubans overwhelmingly vote Republican (because Democrats are evil commies, doncha know). I really wish we had the same system that England has, but that won’t happen anytime soon. Around here you only have to re-register if there’s a change in address.


  • I’m even more worried about the voting machines. Georgia has these piece of shit Diebold machines that are ridiculously easy to hack. The central tabulator software used in each county office is even worse.

    Microsoft Access on Windows is NOT an appropriate platform for an electronic voting system. It’s just laughably bad.


  • Dawn
    October 8
    9:05 am

    This was the issue I was trying to recall when I commented on the “Why doesn’t everybody vote” item. I’m horrified that this is happening.

    The company that I work for in the UK makes machines that count voting ballot papers (among other things) and after the last 2 presidential elections, we had a great laugh about the “chad” issue.

    Our system uses a good old fashioned ballot paper where the voter makes their mark. The machine scans the ballot papers and if there is anything that doesn’t fit the parameters (a tick instead of an “X” or writing on the paper that is not), an image is taken of the paper and it is sent for adjudication where it can be viewed and a decision taken by all parties on the appropriate action (should the vote be accepted – in the case of a tick, or should the paper be marked as spoiled). It’s simple, but it works and we’ve used it many times in the UK.

    Somehow, though, I think that our machines are far too sophisticated (or honest) for the US officials IMHO.


  • Claudia
    October 8
    4:59 pm

    Another type of match purging is the Repub push to block people with foreclosed homes from voting because they aren’t/won’t be living at the address on election day. This is a bald strike against Dems since it’s assumed only poor minorities got subprime loans, but I consider this an extreme form of gerrymandering I’m sure some Dems also would support if they could apply it to Repub strongholds.


  • This year in the US, the states now have Provisional Ballots for those who are not listed in the poll books. You can take your driver’s license (with social security number if its not on your license) and you will be allowed to fill out a paper ballot.

    So they can purge all they like but as long as you are registered, you can still vote. How do I know this? I worked the elections in 07 when this first came into being and my job was…provisional ballots. 🙂


  • And look what just made it to the headlines: States’ purges of voter rolls appear illegal

    The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.

    States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.

    In three states — Colorado, Louisiana and Michigan — the number of people purged from the election rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number who may have died or relocated during that period.

    And so much more…


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