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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Candidates Conclude “The Poor Will Always Be With Us” – Good Luck!

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

New Orleans  Both major candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, seem to have concluded that, “What the heck, the poor don’t really vote, and the poor will always be with us, so later for them.” Speeches about the economy are silent on the issue of the richness of America contrasted with our level of poverty compared to other industrialized countries.

Both have kinda, sorta come out for an increase in the federal minimum wage, but don’t start thinking about a “fight for $15,” because this election season that’s more of a “dream for $15.” Trump sometimes says he is for a $10 per hour minimum wage. Clinton has settled on a $12 per hour minimum wage.

Clinton has proposed expanded benefits for child care and health care and some other existing benefits. Trump has said there might should be a deduction from taxes for the average rate of child care payment, but of course you have to have a job where you benefit from such a deduction. Neither seem to say much about the earned income tax credit, nor surprisingly housing, especially affordable housing, which seems to have fallen off either of their lists. Trump obviously knows a bunch about housing, but it’s more in the unaffordable, luxury area.

Yet, as the New York Times noted:

There is not a single state where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can rent a market-rate one-bedroom apartment for 30 percent or less of their income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And more than 11 million households spend more than half of their income on rent.

After one federal initiative after another by both Democratic and Republican presidents, I have to wonder whether or not in the post-2007 housing collapse the candidates have lost their moorings. They can no longer stand firmly on the argument that everyone can afford to be a homeowner, and they are unwilling and unable to tackle the reality of a permanent renter-class and how that fits into a “new” sense of the American dream, and god knows no candidate wants to admit the dream is dead.

This abandonment of the poor is most striking of course for the Democratic Party, which many observers are now arguing is being upended by Trump’s success with the working class, especially white, which they have usually claimed. One columnist recently argued for example:

If current trends continue, not only will there be a class inversion among the white supporters of the Democratic Party, but the party will become increasingly dependent on a white upper middle class that has isolated itself from the rest of American society. Instead of serving as the political arm of working and middle class voters seeking to move up the ladder, the Democratic Party faces the prospect of becoming the party of the winners, in collaboration with many of those in the top 20 percent who are determined to protect and secure their economic and social status.

So, who is really going to advocate and represent low-and-moderate income families or in other words, the poor and working class? Seems clear neither Clinton nor Trump is really ready to ride for this brand, and low-and-moderate income families are going to be hard pressed to find comfortable or permanent homes in either of the two major parties.

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Please enjoy Y La Bamba by Libre.  Thanks to KABF.

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Revolution of the Low-Information Voter or What?

People-VotingNew Orleans   The Presidential primaries are coming hot and heavy now that we’ve left the frozen tundra of Iowa and New Hampshire and politics are moving west and south. For all of the sound and fury about how neither state is representative of the rest of the country, this is the time when the pols and pundits really get scared about what “real” Americans in the rest of the country think, and even worse, how they might vote. Looking down from their noses, we are now moving into the land of the so-called “low-information voter,” which Wikipedia defines as people who might vote for Bill Clinton because he used to eat at McDonald’s or who think that John Kerry and Barack Obama are elitists because one windsurfs and the other golfs. Some are arguing that the Donald Trump phenomenon is a revolution of the low-information voter and the high-brows will broad brush all of everything from Trump to Sanders as populism, a code word for unbridled demagoguery. A survey recently found that in the South and West we don’t get enough sleep: we’re dangerous and unstable people!

We all have to concede that there is some very rich irony in all of this since we also supposedly live in the “age of information.” Is the problem low-information or drowning in information? For too many, the “trusted advisor” who is weighing the information streaming to the brain is coming through their Facebook portal directly in an echo-chamber of “friends” and supporters that facts don’t pierce.

It’s a vicious circle. I read a scary book recently by Rob Brotherton entitled Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe in Conspiracy Theories. One of the more disturbing points he established is the fact that if someone believes in one conspiracy, they are more inclined to believe in almost all kinds of conspiracies. Once the wall of rationality is breached, then the deluge, and you’re washed up on distant shores, perhaps forever.

Take for example the bizarreness of the Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers, armed and argumentative. No matter how much we love our Western ranchers, and god knows I do, on the face of it we know that they fail the smell test when they argue they just want to make public land their own private plaything and business park. None of us ever believe there’s really a “free lunch” out there. But, whoa, Nellie, there are teeny-tiny armed militias beating this drum and some loose dog politicians circling around the pack. There are people who believe one of the occupiers was murdered even after the police put out the video, which even if inconclusive leaves little doubt it may have been something crazy, but it wasn’t assassination, no matter what their Facebook friends claim.

Still, it’s not the voter who is to blame, but the exploiter. The big whoops who know better, but trim their sails to the fringe in order to pull them into their wake, regardless. The politicians who take the conspiracies and make it their cause. The insiders who manipulate votes, fears, and emotions about outsiders to their own self-interest rather than peoples’ benefit.

Until we all put our foot down and step into the mess to sort it out, we’ll just have more and more of this.

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Problems are Epidemic in the States Due to Voter Registration

New Orleans   The headlines only tell part of the story when it comes to the emerging crisis in voter registration systems and the simple act of voting.  I haven’t gone through the whole Pew Trust report on state problems according to their election performance index covering 2008 and 2010, but I’ve read enough to know that states are making a mockery of registration and voting, and given the voter suppression efforts of 2012, the next report is going to be a horror too terrible to comprehend.

The key issue has to be statistics on “discouraged” voters, people who when surveyed indicated that they gave up on voting because of the obstacles posed by registration or their efforts to obtain an absentee ballot when unable to reach the polls.  States almost uniformly failed, or given current voter suppression these days reaching almost conspiratorial levels, perhaps this is what many of them now call success.  This problem was significant in a majority of the states with the numbers running between 6% and 13.5% of those surveyed.  In electoral terms that’s more than enough to swing most elections.

A related problem was the proliferation of “provisional” ballots.  Provisional ballots are election-speak for “hey, dude, we’re not going to count your ballot unless hell freezes over” or the election is so close that it falls within the numbers that force the “issues” (to put it kindly) to be resolved so that the ballots are either counted or left in the trashcan.  This is an area where poorly trained and informed election observers have wild levels of power to pitch the vote aside.  The smallest problem with a registration or an ID can force a provisional ballot.  In Louisiana for example if you forget your ID, you can vote, but the vote is a provisional ballot, so your vote is counted once every blue moon.  Looking at some of the states where the numbers are significant increases concerns.  Ohio, which has become notorious, tosses 3%.  Kansas, which is leading voter suppression efforts, is right there with them.  Arizona, not surprisingly, leads the dishonor roll by tossing 6.5% of the votes into the provisional pile.

When are we going to stop pretending that our notions of democracy are broken completely when our people don’t even have a good shot at voting and then having their votes counted?

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Civic Footprint

New Orleans  Here’s an interesting idea worth some thought:  creating and measuring a civic footprint.

I had an interesting meeting on Saturday (www.mylifecity.com) about the “green footprint” of the coffeehouse, which involves everything from measuring carbon usage, utility utilization, composting, and whatnot.  On Sunday at an all-baristas meeting at Fair Grinds , I listened to one worker raise a question about corn-based cups that we used to use, and three other workers push back about the carbon footprint involved in bringing the cups in from California followed by a highly sophisticated set of points that they then made about the condition of New Orleans landfills and our inability to handle the methane problem these cups and similar issues created.  I’m not sure I completely followed all of the points, but they were quickly made and deeply felt, and spoke to the high level of appreciation and concern that younger people have gained for the environment.  I found myself both proud of them and, frankly, depressed.

What can we do to inculcate the same deep understanding and involvement with the civic life, that is at the heart of any hope for democracy, that now has become commonplace in terms of the environment?

I found a hint of it in the beginning effort of a group to help individuals measure a personal civic footprint.  I hate to even mention that I found the group in Canada.  Every time I write about something involving Canada, an issue, campaign, or idea, it seems half of the people reading run for the hills, but, nonetheless, that’s where I found it, so truth be told.  Unfortunately, the group, Framework, which seems lavishly well funded is just beginning to sketch this out, and unfortunately (for me) sees this as an individually based barometer, where, if anything, our desperate need is to connect the individual with the collective in the conversation about civic participation and footprint.

In these days when technical skills seem to be everywhere, I can’t believe it would be hard to develop tools and comparisons that create a benchmark for a civic footprint.  We could start the list easily.  For a business and its employees it would include:  number registered to vote, number who actually vote, number who participate in campaigns, number who donate to campaigns, number who read the paper or follow civic events, number who volunteer in the community and how they volunteer, number who sign petitions, number who have ever been a part of a protest, etc, and the same for the business, and so on and so on.

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