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View Diary: Kansas GOP Chair Brags of Voter Caging in E-Mail (134 comments)

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  •  It's a win-win for us. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boofdah, Philpm

    Either he is openly bragging about illegal voter suppression tactics, or he is incompetent.

    •  Hold on just a minute (3+ / 0-)
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      wonmug, Scout Finch, Philpm

      Before we can assume anything, a little further information might be helpful.  The context in which Kobach is using the term can make all the difference in the world.  One of the best resources for information on voter caging, The Brennan Center for Justice, states the following in "A Guide to Voter Caging."  

      What Is Voter Caging?

      "Caging" is a generic term that describes the sorting of returned direct-mail pieces – sometimes to process contributions, and sometimes to weed out unprofitable addresses. The term is reportedly derived from the postal cubby holes, resembling cages, that are used for sorting mail.[2] In many of its applications, "caging" is both standard practice and benign.

      "Voter caging" is a distinct form of caging, and much more dangerous. Voter caging is the practice of sending mail to addresses on the voter rolls, compiling a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge voters’ registrations on the grounds that the voters on the list do not legally reside at their registered addresses.

      Gerry Hebert, former career attorney with the DOJ Civil Rights Division, has written extensively on voter caging on the Campaign Legal Center Blog.  Inside the Vote Cage: Griffin, Goodling and McNulty (No, Not Another Lawfirm) provides a great explanation of voter caging as used to suppress voters.

      How Vote Caging Works

      "Caging" is a direct mail technique used to clean up a mailing list. A political organization sends first class mail to a list of voters (or donors) marked "do not forward." Sometimes, the mail is sent return receipt requested. Voters whose mail comes back undeliverable, or who do not return the receipt, are removed from the list – caged, in direct mail parlance.

      "Vote caging" is when a political organization, typically a political party, compiles a "caging list" of voters whose mail came back undeliverable or who did not return the receipt, and uses that list to challenge those voters as not being validly registered. The challenges can occur prior to Election Day or at the polls.

      The problem with using a caging list to challenge voters is simple.  First, the list is most often produced using criteria aimed at a particular racial group (picking out African-American precincts, for example).  Second, there are plenty of reasons why mail sent to a validly registered voter might be returned as undeliverable or without the signed return receipt requested. For instance, the voter may be serving abroad in the military or away at college. Address errors, especially in urban areas, are common.  A voter may have forgotten to put his or her apartment number on the voter registration form.  Typographical errors in preparing the list of voters to whom mail will be sent – Gonzalez becomes Gonzales – can also result in a piece of mail being returned as undeliverable when in fact the voter may live there.  Moreover, such typographical errors on registration rolls can also lead one to conclude, in error, that someone is not registered to vote when in fact that person is validly registered. (the entire post is full of useful info on understanding voter caging)

      Hebert's Vote Caging and the Attorney General provides a nice rundown of the higher profile cases and history of vote caging from the 1980's to the present.  Also,  Republican Ballot Security Programs:  Vote protection or minority vote suppression-or both? is another excellent report that covers Republican suppression efforts back to the 1960's.  

      I am posting this for two purposes.  First, I am concerned that there is not adequate information from the email to draw the conclusion that the Kansas GOP is admitting to voter caging or it is even describing voter caging.  Second, voter caging has been a widespread tactic used by the Republican party for years and the information I have linked to provides some good background to help us learn more about voter caging so we will be better informed to identify it if (when) it is used in the future.    

      •  Either way, Kris Kobach needs to answer (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Philpm

        the question - what exactly did he mean by "caging?"  It's hard to believe that somebody who has run for Congress, is a Prof of Constitutional Law, has worked at the highest levels of the Justice Dept, and is the GOP point person in Kansas responsible for "getting out the Republican vote".....it is hard to believe that he wouldn't know what the term means as it relates to voting.

        Either way I look forward to Kobach answering questions about it and I hope it helps to shine a light on these dirty tactics being used by the GOP nationwide.

      •  The job of keeping the voter rolls .... (0+ / 0-)

        lawful and correct is not the job of a political party, and caging is used to disqulify people from being able to vote.

        I don't get why you are gung ho on pointing out that there may be a thin line that the Republicans are free to cross, so that they can disqualify voters rights.

        In 1986 they were lawfully told they could not ingage in voter caging. It seems fairly clear that they are doing everything in their power to keep citizens from voting.

        •  I am (0+ / 0-)

          "gung ho" on facts and accuracy.  And there are too many problems with the assumptions in this post and your comment to let them go without noting them.  Critical thinking and challenging assumptions used to be something that was valued on dkos.  I have seen how the Republicans have accepted their party line about the rampant problem of voter fraud and now see it in every election with little to support it in many cases.  If we really want to effectively combat caging that suppresses minority voters, we need to be able understand what it is and how it is done.  Not all caging is illegal and if we begin tossing around allegations that have no basis, the people who can and should do something about it will stop listening because they will think we are not credible.  

          If you read what I wrote again, you will see I am well aware of and do not disagree that Republicans have used caging to suppress minority voters in the past.  I even suspect it will be used by them again.

          Allegations should be supported by facts.  The use of the term caging in an email from the KS GOP chairman is not sufficient to conclude anything much less suggest that the chair should explain himself before a grand jury.  If there is evidence the party has engaged in illegal voter caging, then they should be held accountable but we simply can't tell from the information provided.  It would be nice if we had a copy of the entire email instead of just the paragraphs that were cited.  

          Another point that seems to be overlooked is that caging is a term that applies to some very common and acceptable practices.  There are consultants, for both parties, who use the term frequently and accurately to describe the process of caging direct mail and donor lists.  Take a look at Mal Warwick Associates for example.  Here are some of their clients:  

          Al Franken for Senate
          Democracy for America
          Feingold Senate Committee
          People for the American Way
          Progressive Patriots Fund
          Wellstone Action Committee

          And Mal Warwick Associates is very open about the caging work they do as a part of their services.  They have this useful article, A Fundraiser's View of Caging and List Maintenance.  Or The Six Ugly Truths About Direct Mail provides this little bit:

          (3) Is the data on your donor file accurate and up-to-date? Really?

          Naturally, every organization and every caging service crows about the quality of its data entry. How is it, then, that so many donor lists available on the market through rental or exchange are so godawful inaccurate? Don’t believe me? Just try sending a donor acquisition mailing with first class postage sometime, and watch the nixies pile up! Having actually done this, I can attest to the fact that, if your donor list is truly accurate and up-to-date, you’re exceptional. Print out your list sometime, and subject it to the eyeball test: chances are, you’ll find missing ZIP codes, missing cities or states, and atrociously misspelled names or addresses, as well as lots of duplicates.

          Unfortunately, caging, cashiering, and data entry get short shrift in most direct mail fundraising programs. They’re the "back end" of the process. In reality, though, these steps constitute the "front end" as far as your donors are concerned. If you’re misspelling names or getting their addresses wrong, it’s a virtual certainty that your fundraising program will suffer. A little extra investment in keeping your donor file accurate and up-to-date could pay off in the long run.

          And from The 10 Most Important Things About Direct Mail:

          Caging and cashiering
          Once a mailing has "dropped" and (presumably) people start sending gifts in response, there's a ton of additional work to do. This consists largely of "caging" (processing the information that can be gleaned from the returns) and "cashiering" (processing the gifts themselves). It's rare for a direct mail fundraising agency to handle these tasks in-house (because charities regulators frown when the consultants who've helped prepare a mailing also control the funds it generates). Almost always, a nonprofit organization that farms out this work will seek a specialized computer service bureau – frequently the same place where its donor list is maintained.

          Now looking back at the email, we see:

          ...We have taken the last 11 months to rebuild our party operations, make technology updates, build our fundraising database, and identify voters.  We have also put operations in place to make the Party a more effective organization to support candidates, and better able to provide rapid campaign response in every county in the state.

          ...

          Our voter identification system is up and running giving us the capability to effectively mobilize voters and turn them out to vote on Election Day.  To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!

          Most of what is noted has to do with the GOP's lists of voters and donors.  And make no mistake, the Republicans are masters at information management when it comes to voters.  If you aren't familiar with their database, try reading up on their "voter vault."  They also have getting out the vote down to a science with the "72 Hour Program".  There is every reason to consider, based on the brief statements provided from the email, that this caging is part of their management of information used for mailings, donations or get out the vote programs.  On the other hand, there is very little to support or suggest that this caging was of voters from the official rolls maintained by local election officials .      

          One last point on caging lists used to challenge registrations and voters at the polls;  the creation of a caging list is not illegal.  It is the act of targeting minorities in the creation or use of the lists which is illegal.  And the consent decree the RNC entered into in 1982, modified in 1987, applies  only to the RNC and not state parties.  This was very important in 2004 when the DNC was able to enjoin the RNC in the suit filed where the Ohio GOP had a list of 35,000 voters to challenge at the polls.  The stay from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals can be read here.    

           

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