Interstate Crosscheck May Have Removed One-Million Legitimate Voters from Election

Al Jazeera's Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

Al Jazeera’s Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

New Orleans   There’s a saying in almost every language that the “devil is in the details.” There’s a lesson in that expression though, and it’s one we all need to learn more carefully about how to work the levers of intricate bureaucracies at every level of government in order to implement our programs.

The particularly infamous devil who is teaching these lessons about details includes the notorious and dangerous Secretary of State in Kansas, Kris Kobach, who we have seen recently in conference with President-Elect Trump on how to establish a registry for Muslims. Previously he has not only been in the thick of litigation to repress the human rights of immigrants, but the prime mover in voter identification and other efforts to block access to the ballot particularly for poor and minority voters. Kobach has long been on my radar, but I had still missed some of the incredible damage he wrought.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office was an early adopter of a small program around 2005 with four neighboring states participating: Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. The intention of the program, called Interstate Crosscheck, was to identify people who might have been voting in more than one state. Ray Thornburgh was the Secretary of State when the annual use of Interstate Crosscheck began, but its use exploded in recent years since Kobach took office as Kansas’ Secretary of State in 2011. According to his reports, the number ballooned up to 15 states in 2012, 22 in 2013, and 29 in 2014, and according to some reports 30 in 2016, all of whom were involved in a shared data dump and list purging annually. The roster of states in 2014 included many red states, but several important blue states as well. The 29 include Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Although ostensibly checking for duplicate voting, what may or may not have been realized fully in each state is that Interstate Crosscheck, according to investigative reporter Gary Palast, was removing hundreds of thousands of minority voters from the rolls. This was a brute tool which was unable to distinguish between common names in minority communities like Jose Sanchez or Joseph Johnson and so forth. Virginia was unique in reporting the number of voters it dropped using Interstate Crosscheck and the number was significant at 12.1% of the rolls, almost one of every eight registered voters. Nationally across the thirty states, seven million names were identified. If the Virginia data were replicated at the same percentage nationally among the participating thirty states as many as one million legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised.

Does this mean the election was stolen? No, because this was just one of many ways that millions of voters were disenfranchised across the country through various efforts to deny legitimate voters access to the ballot because of income, language, or information. Kobach and his crew are on to something. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can deny voters and tilt the even playing field of an election by sneaking in the back door, as surely as some of the more pronounced – and successfully challenged – legislative efforts can do that were more widely publicized.

We need to learn how to operate more successfully in the darkness of the little reported bureaucracy over coming years. We also need to look at this list of states and take action to disengage as many as possible from vote purging software apps like Interstate Crosscheck being manipulated by conservatives. Not easy perhaps, but certainly necessary on our “to do” list pretty darned quick.

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Individual Acts of Solidarity

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

New Orleans   Watching Kris Kobach, the uber-controversial Kansas Secretary of State who has been a one-man wrecking ban of voters rights, ballot access, and the human and legal rights of immigrants, walking hand in hand with President-elect Trump and giving him advice on how to set up a Muslim registry was another in a long list of scary moments in recent weeks, I don’t care how much sugar he put in the coffee of the crowd at the New York Times in his meet and greet. People all over the country are debating where to open their minds and where to take a stand. I’m a collective action guy, but as we all realize, enough individual actions put together are also collective actions.

Recently many of us saw an example of this on Facebook of all places. When it became clear that the sheriff in North Dakota was monitoring the Facebook check-ins to determine who and how many people were part of the Standing Rock Sioux anti-pipeline protests, people from all over the world registered that they were there in order to put a monkey wrench in the sheriff’s plans.

Earlier a common strategy for individual actions to thwart NSA snooping and mass government profiling, as revealed by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, was not only to be opaque on social media but to shuffle the deck widely on sites like LinkedIn. I have no idea how people really use LinkedIn to get a job, and having several, I’ve never worried about it. The simple strategy is to accept all requests to link. For me that means music promoters and rock acts, radio djs, organizers, publications people, random sales personnel, and even old friends. Let them figure that out. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a fool’s errand.

The other day I heard an interesting individual action strategy to protect undocumented immigrants. In cities where there is a municipal IDs that can be used for basic identification when lacking other documents, similar to how we used our ACORN membership cards for our waste pickers in India, many are now moving to ask for one. NYCID for example in the Big Apple is being flooded with non-immigrants in order to make it an unattractive target for Homeland Security, if it comes to that. Furthermore, in New York having such an ID gives the holder premiums and discounts in some places. This is Trump-city, so who would be surprised if business didn’t find a way to benefit.

I saw a posting the other day from a friend who said he was ready to sign onto the Muslim registry, if one was created by Kobach and the new gang. Might be hard to do that since it was pointed out to me that most of the touted registry is designed to nab you as you enter the country from foreign lands. I’m actually not sure, but in some countries, once again India is an example, applying for a visa demands you state your religious preference. Even if the United States is asking for that information, right now it’s protected as confidential, so presumably the Kobach’s on the right want to break down any kind of privacy walls that exist, just as they want to build other walls.

On the other hand if they are thinking about reinvigorating the same laws used to force Japanese-Americans to register during World War II, and some experts have recently argued that many of those laws, though in disuse, were never repealed, then that’s another matter. If such a list is passed around and mandated for Muslims, many of us will have little choice but to register in hopes that we can break that bank by the overwhelming volume of the protest.

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Some Stories Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas

ap391840591794New Orleans   There are some stories from the last election that should speak more to our future than any nostalgia for the past. One big story is from Las Vegas, and it’s not a story that should stay there, but one that should travel everywhere, although it may be too late.

In the butt whipping administered by Donald Trump and Republicans throughout much of the country, there was one battleground state where Democrats turned the tables and that was in Nevada. There are always many parents of victories, but there is no way to ignore the fact that one of the strongest local labor unions in the country is located among service workers in Las Vegas hotels and casinos, the impressive Culinary Workers, Local 226, affiliated with UNITE HERE. Their work is getting major credit for the fact that two House districts held by Republicans were upended and moved to the Democratic column, Harry Reid’s long contested seat in the US Senate was retained with the election of a Latina, Catherine Cortez Masto, and the party gained control of state legislative bodies. Oh, and Hillary Clinton won the state as well, by the way.

How did it happen? D. Taylor the longtime head of the Vegas local and now the president of the national union was straightforward, saying,

“It meant going door to door, talking to people, listening to people, trying to move people. I think that’s very, very doable. That’s what Democrats and labor used to do.”

The union believes their work contributed more than 50,000 votes. Once again we hear the refrain, door knocking, door knocking, and more door knocking, but there’s also an edge to the sentence when Brother Taylor notes that it’s “what Democrats and labor used to do.” In some ways that’s Taylor’s warning that comes with this accomplishment.

Given the results in some of the rust belt states where Trump even won a majority of union members’ votes, as much as many might hope Vegas could be a model, it may be too late. Few locals in the Midwest – or anywhere else — are as large and concentrated as the almost 50,000 members of the Culinary Workers in Las Vegas. Few are as politically active in races from the bottom of the ballot to the top. Few are as aggressive in organizing and policing their jurisdictions. None have built this kind of membership in a right-to-work environment where Culinary has thrived taking its members from hotel referral to training programs to their work on the job in some of the most creative and effective bargaining programs anywhere in the country thanks to both John Wilhelm and D. Taylor and their stewardship as presidents of the local over the last several decades.

The AFL-CIO in the last weeks before the election touted the fact that they would have more than one-hundred thousand people on the doors in the battleground states, and that was welcome news. There is a difference though between a last-ditch election push and the day-to-day work of the Culinary Workers in Vegas in every election where they have an interest and it’s the difference between a day tripper and a powerhouse.

A local like the Culinary Workers is not built in a day or even in four years. As the clock winds down on labor’s capacity, it is almost too late to create this culture for many locals, but the work needs to start today. Members will do the work and the doors are waiting, but it takes leadership and resources, both of which are desperately needed now.

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Fake News and a Field Guide to Lies

fake-newsNew Orleans You have to love headline news about fake news.  Usually fake news is in the stories, not the headlines.  We all have to appreciate the irony contained in articles in almost any newspaper, especially opinion pieces, about fake news when there is no disclosure of inherent biases contained in any of them.  Nonetheless, it is a real and ageless problem.  What do we do about outright lies that take on lives of their own and move public opinion and often become impossible to ever pry loose?

            Admittedly, I’m jaded about this.  For all of the journalists and columnists now trying to act high and mighty because of their fears about the Trump ascension and the host of different tribes in his movement, it seems a case of “whose ox is being gored.”  Don’t make me go into the total fakery involved in contentions around voter fraud versus voter registration errors once again.  Finally, most commentators have sorted this out, but for conservatives in the USA, it’s too little, too late, since so much of this has seeped into the ideological fabric of the right, when it was always a lie, just never called out in a timely fashion, and without defenders when ACORN and others were attacked and decimated.

            Nonetheless, let’s swallow our bitterness hard, and say, better late than never.  Facebook thus far seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth without a real plan that they are willing to throw money and muscle at, as they vacillate between concerns about free speech and the damage of fake news.  Studies indicate that Facebook is a much louder microphone for all of this than Twitter, but they are all swimming in the same stew of privileging eyeballs and advertising regardless of adverse impacts and real harm to millions.

            But, even if they make progress in some directions, ferreting out the facts in all of the news may be harder than any are willing to admit.  Reading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin’s A Field Guide to Lies:  Critical Thinking in the Information Age was a fascinating look at both how easy in our fast moving world it is easy to be fooled if we’re not paying close attention, as well as how determined many of the actors in business and politics are to fool us, and I’m not talking about basement hackers in Russia or scammers in Nigeria.   Some of the bits on advanced math and reasoning might not be helpful to the average bear, but his points on how we are often manipulated by fake facts hidden in preposterous math or deceptive charts and graphs lacking any qualifications or context were excellent and sound a solid cautionary note about how difficult separating facts from fiction may be for many.

            Once again though we have to confront the fact that power plays with fact and fiction.  We do not yet have an accurate count on the number of people who were effectively disenfranchised by the wave of Republican-led voter suppression laws state by state in the recent election, but we know it is in the millions.  We have to weigh all of those unjustly deprived of their votes, particularly among low-and-moderate income and minority families against the right’s argument that even if there are only a handful of actual, proven cases of voter fraud in the US annually they still justify the barriers to voting even if they rob millions of their right to vote.

            Let’s hope the search for truth is not a temporary project or a finger pointing exercise but a real and objective effort to level the playing field with facts rather than fiction.

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What’s a Woman to Do?

Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at an exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves

Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at an exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves

New Orleans   The ascent of Trump may be proving that the personal is not the political, but it also seems to be establishing to a frightening degree that the political is very, very personal.

I read a lengthy and poignant story in Harper’s in the wake of the election. It was centered in Rapid City, South Dakota, a city I know reasonably well and have visited often over a lifetime. A young nurse in her mid-twenties with one child found herself pregnant by a man passing through her life with what turned out to be no interest in raising a child or building a permanent relationship with her. She had just submitted her application to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Despite the fact that Roe v. Wade establishing a legal right to abortion still exists for the time being at least, various road blocks had been thrown in the way of actually receiving one by the hard red legislature in South Dakota. A retiring ob-gyn had effectively close down the last clinic anywhere near Rapid City with the last one in this small population state now located in Sioux Falls, a vast expanse away in this western state about 350 miles distant. Required 72-hour waits and other delays though meant that if she were able to schedule a procedure with the clinic the cost would be over $1000 out of pocket, not counting gas, lodging and incidentals, like lost work time. Frequently, the state laws and limited capacity led to the clinic counseling people to instead try to go to Fargo, North Dakota where the next nearest clinic was available with only slightly less restrictive laws. When a legislator was asked to comment on these difficulties, he seems to have shrugged and said essentially, too bad about that, go to Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota or someplace other than South Dakota. Having seen reality and laws make a mockery out of anything like “freedom of choice,” the story ended with her having the baby and trying to make the best of it as a single-mother of two children, fortunately still employed, and facing the future.

The Times quoted four young women in a southern state planning to go and get IUDs before the end of the year for fear that coming changes in the Affordable Care Act might make it impossible for them to obtain birth control.

As the political overwhelms the personal for women all over the country, it’s impossible to be prematurely nostalgic, because even though women are oppressed and restrained everywhere, a woman’s lot in the South and the West has never been easy or equal either. I overheard two women of different generations talking between themselves in the patio of one of our New Orleans social enterprise coffeehouses. They were discussing cervical biopsies in very forthright terms. The procedure involves cutting a piece of flesh for testing. One asked the other if she had had anesthesia. Her friend probably shook her head, “no,” because then I heard her clearly say it was the most painful experience she had ever had. The first said that the women’s bible, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” dating to my generation, said that you should have anesthesia for the procedure. The second woman simply stated, yes, probably if you are in Boston. The denouement was almost sadder, when the older woman said she had called a nurse to complain at the doctor’s after it was all over, and the nurse had simply stated that women had never complained in the past.

Trump says he will appoint another Supreme Court judge pretty darned quick and he’ll make sure that that justice is ready to suit up to overturn Roe v. Wade. In state after state Republican legislatures are already killing the freedom of choice for women with a thousand cuts as they use the political knives to eviscerate a woman’s personal integrity over her body and her ability to protect it. Where there’s really no regard for women and their pain, these will just be more cuts in a tradition of them. And, tragically, there won’t be anesthesia, just pain.

***

Thanks to a loyal reader for suggesting this song by the recently deceased Mose Allison. 

 

Mose Allison performs Everybody Cryin’ Mercy on Later… with Jools Holland, BBC Two (20 May 2005)

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Abolitionists Model: Yes, Resist, But, Organize, Organize, Organize!

anti-slavery-mtg-posterNew Orleans   I took a call yesterday from someone who believed there was a way to force a new election, block the inauguration, and create an “Orange Revolution” in the United States that would be triggered by a general strike of twenty-million workers. He had sent the email to a dozen or so well-known organizers. After mentioning that with 330 million people and a long history, we were not Ukraine, I asked him if he had gotten traction on this idea from anyone else he had emailed earlier. It seemed I was the only one whose number he had for whatever reason. I couldn’t really see his movie as much more than magical thinking, but I admired his energy and marveled at his “time is wasting, every day counts” desperation.

I read today about the plans for 100,000 women to march on January 21, 2017 on Inauguration Day. In order to pitch the widest tent, organizers are not calling it a protest, they say. I guess it is rather a demonstration expressing their truth at the pinnacle of power’s pageantry.

More interestingly perhaps, a friend and comrade sent me a link to a piece written in The Washington Post by Linda Hirshman, author of a book on women Supreme Court Justices and at work on a book about the abolitionists’ movement. Obviously the parallels are not exact, but they are helpful, and perhaps not only hopeful, but instructive reminders of what we already know. She began with the devastation the abolitionists’’ movement felt at the 1850 Compromise when they had hoped to see slavery abolished, but instead found the entire country forced to act to return fleeing slaves to their owners in the South. A triggering instance in the resistance happened in 1854. As Hirshman tells it:

 

In 1854, the federal government tried and convicted fugitive Anthony Burns, sending him back to slavery. Unfortunately for the slaveholders, the abolitionists happened to be holding their annual convention in Boston, where the trial was held. After an ax-wielding mob rushed the courthouse, Boston’s mayor put the city under martial law. And on the day of Burns’s rendition, 50,000 protesters lined the streets, as federal troops marched the hapless fugitive to the ship that would take him back to his master in Virginia. Chronicled at every step, the Via Dolorosa of Burns awakened and intensified opposition to slavery throughout the North. Boston’s Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed the feelings of many when he said of the Fugitive Slave Law: “I will not obey it, by God.’’

 

Hats off to Hirshman though. She may be wearing a historian’s button, but there’s an organizer’s heart beating deep behind her advice. She correctly couples the deportation threat for undocumented immigrants with fugitive slaves, and asks the question rhetorically, what abolitionists would do in this moment.

They would gather in huge numbers every time federal agents came for a Hispanic honors student. They would compel those agents to use force if they wanted to proceed. They would document every moment. And they would use the media — back then it was the penny press, the Twitter of its time — to spread the images everywhere. Every vulnerable dreamer should be carrying a cellphone with a number to text if the feds come.

Hirshman argues along with all organizers, that tactics aren’t enough without building organizations and infrastructure or as she calls it “the time-intensive and expensive organizing that actually changes minds and behavior.” Hirshman reminds everyone that movements like these don’t spring up out of the imagination. Speaking of the abolitionists…

 

These groups were highly organized. They elected executive committees to run their affairs, dispatched speakers to spread the word and held annual conventions. They also had women’s auxiliaries; the gender divide sounds awful today, but the women were the heart of the movement. They held fairs to raise money and sell goods made without slave labor. Then they started going door to door with petitions. The pro-slavery Congress forbade them from delivering those petitions, but that didn’t matter. Each time a woman approached a neighbor about signing, she got a chance to publicize slavery’s cruelty.

 

Yes, you heard that right: door knocking, door knocking, and more door knocking. Door knocking as resistance. Hirshman even quotes Viridiana Hernandez, a board member of People United for Justice that led the campaign that successfully ousted Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix’s Maricopa County saying,

“This is about community organizing rather than electoral campaigning.”

There are lessons aplenty here, but most of them come down to resist, sure, whenever and wherever on all of the issues, but mainly it’s going to be about doing the hard work of community organizing and organizing, organizing, and organizing some more day after day in the coming years.

Special thanks to longtime reader, Jay Hessey, for sending me a link to the Hirshman piece in the Post.

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