The Katherine Harris Legacy

by digby

The Brennan Center is following the vote suppression efforts around the country and released a new study yesterday that sends chills down my spine:

Today the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released one of the first systematic examinations of voter purging, a practice—often controversial—of removing voters from registration lists in order to update state registration rolls—click here for report. After a detailed study of the purge practices of 12 states, Voter Purges reveals that election officials across the country are routinely striking millions of voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation. Upon the release of Voter Purges, today the Brennan Center and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law began filing public records requests with election officials in 12 states in order to expose the purges that happened this year.

"Purges can be an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate and up-to-date," said Myrna Pérez, counsel at the Brennan Center and the author of the report. "Far too frequently, however, eligible, registered citizens show up to vote and discover their names have been removed from the voter lists because election officials are maintaining their voter rolls with little accountability and wildly varying standards," Myrna Pérez stated.

pull quoteAccording to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, between 2004 and 2006, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls. While the secret and inconsistent manner in which purges are conducted make it difficult to know exactly how many voters have been stricken from voting lists erroneously, Voter Purges finds four problematic practices with voter purges that continue to threaten voters in 2008: purges rely on error-ridden lists; voters are purged secretly and without notice; bad "matching" criteria mean that thousands of eligible voters will be caught up in purges; and insufficient oversight leaves voters vulnerable to erroneous or manipulated purges. The report reveals that purge practices vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, that there is a lack of consistent protections for voters, and that there are often opportunities for mischief and mistakes in the purge process.

"The voter rolls are the gateway to voting, and a citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless his or her name appears on the rolls. Purges remove names from the voter rolls, typically preventing wrongfully purged voters from having their votes counted. Given the close margins by which elections are won, the number of people wrongfully purged can make a difference. We should not tolerate purges that are conducted behind closed doors, without public scrutiny, and without adequate recourse for affected voters," said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center

CBS news did a story on it last night. You can see the segment here.

Much of this "purging" is undoubtedly innocent. But when you have national vote suppression projects like those initiated by the Republican National Lawyers Association, scandals like the US Attorney firings around the same issues, and a decades long campaign to create a sense of crisis around something that doesn't exist in any meaningful way --- voter fraud --- this kind of thing becomes a lot more suspicious.

We have special challenges with this election that make this election potentially open for all kinds of shennanigans --- the Democrats have registered millions of first time voters, who, by definition, have no experience with the system and can often be manipulated in the face of difficulty at the polls. And, as ever, creating difficulties and delays alone tends to keep some people from voting because they just don't have the time to spend in long lines.

I would suspect, just as an observer of human beings over the years, that even honest Republican election officials have been persuaded by their party's own propaganda that their primary responsibility is keeping people from voting illegally. I'm sure they think they are doing their patriotic duty by ensuring that felons and illegal immigrants and unregistered young voters can't vote. And if some legitimate Democratic voters are kept from casting a vote, well --- it's the price we pay for vigilance.