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Voter caging and purging

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Voter caging and voter purging are two types of voter suppression.

Voter caging

Voter caging is a tactic that specifically refers to times when a political party or other partisan organization sends registered mail to addresses of registered voters that they have identified as likely to be unfriendly to their candidate. All mail that is returned as undeliverable is placed on what is called a "caging list." The group that sent the mail then systematically uses this list to challenge the registration or right to vote of those names on it, on the grounds that if the voters were unreachable at the address listed on his or her voter registration, then their registration is fraudulent, and they should not be allowed to vote.[1]

Challenging voter caging

The process of issuing the challenges differs from state to state. Commonly, though, the process begins with a formal written challenge filed with local election boards by a certain date before the election.[2]

States where voter caging is illegal

Minnesota outlawed the practice of building voter caging lists compiled from returned mail sent by a political party after the 2004 election.[3]

Examples of caging

Michigan (2008)

On September 16, 2008, the Obama legal team announced they would seek an injunction to stop an alleged caging scheme in Michigan wherein the state Republican party would use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters still using their foreclosed home as a primary address at the polls.[4] Although Michigan GOP officials called the suit "desperate," a judge found the practice to be against the law.[5][6]

Louisiana (1986)

A 2004 article in the Washington Post stated, "In 1986, the Republican National Committee tried to have 31,000 voters, most of them black, removed from the rolls in Louisiana when a party mailer was returned. The consent decrees that resulted prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud initiatives that target minorities or conduct mail campaigns to "compile voter challenge lists."[7]

New Jersey (1981)

A 2004 article in the Washington Post stated, "In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent letters to predominantly black neighborhoods in New Jersey, and when 45,000 letters were returned as undeliverable, the committee compiled a challenge list to remove those voters from the rolls. The RNC sent off-duty law enforcement officials to the polls and hung posters in heavily black neighborhoods warning that violating election laws is a crime."[7]

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Voter purging

Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting because 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, 39 states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006.[8]

Why purges are done

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.[8]

Problems with purging

Purging creates a problem when an eligible, registered citizen shows up to vote and discovers that his or her name has been removed from the voter list. Different states exercise very different practices as to how they maintain their voter rolls. Some critics of the process, such as the Brennan Center for Justice, maintain that sometimes the process that is "shrouded in secrecy, prone to error and vulnerable to manipulation."[8]

Remedies for wrongful purging

In 2002, Congress mandated that all states enact the Help America Vote Act to help fix some of the problems faced in the 2000 elections. HAVA requires persons who claim to be registered to vote in a federal election in a jurisdiction, but are not on the voter registration list or are otherwise alleged to be ineligible, be offered and permitted to cast a provisional, or paper, ballot. This provisional ballot would then be verified and counted after the election. In the 2004 election, 1.6 million provisional ballots were cast, and over 1 million were counted. Seventy percent of provisional ballots cast in states that allow provisional ballots cast in the proper jurisdiction were counted as valid. In states requiring that provisional ballots be cast in the proper precinct, 62 percent were counted.[9]

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See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms

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