Tag Archives: Voter Purge Project

Florida’s Voter Suppression Specialists

New Orleans   We’re in the countdown to the November 3rd election, so while the candidates’ campaign and the voters try to sort out the choices, as the saying goes, “Here comes the judge!”  We should say judges.

In Texas, a federal appeals court ruled that the state could continue blocking mail ballots to anyone under the age of 65.  In another case of out of court-rol, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the mailing of absentee ballots should be paused.  Both of these weekly developments were seen as windfalls for Republicans, but the judicial gift that just keeps on giving concerned Florida.  The Atlanta-based, 11th district federal Appeals Court in a 6-4 decision overturned earlier orders declaring that the Florida legislature’s action to unravel the decisive referendum election restoring voting rights for former felons by forcing them to pay all fines and penalties before being allowed to register was in fact constitutional in their view and not in effect a “poll tax.”

Florida’s politicians have become the gold standard in voter suppression, and the Republican rerouting of the popular will for ex-cons is all part of a pattern.  Dexter Filkins, the award-winning journalist, mostly well-known as perhaps the outstanding war correspondent of his generation, documented their work in devastating fashion in a recent piece in the New Yorker, correctly noting that the enfranchisement of ex-felons in Florida was the greatest expansion of voting rights in the United States since 1971 when 18 year-olds were given the right to vote in the Twenty-sixth Amendment.

Filkins unravels decades of voter suppression efforts in Florida as Republicans have dug in to resist the demographic trends in the state that will eventually marginalize them no matter how much chicanery they try.  In the meantime, though,  it’s a hot mess that is a scandalous travesty of injustice leaving democracy in its wake.

Given the work of the Voter Purge Project, I’ll raise up the role he reports on the sneak purges of eligible voters have played in key contests.  It’s hard to forget the 2000 election contest where George W. Bush and Al Gore and the country were pushed into a waiting room for more than 30 days to determine the winner of the election.  Hanging chads got the big news, but a voter purge initiated incompetently, but effectively, by the infamous Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, may have been a worse culprit.  Harris hired a company called Database Technologies, known as DBT, to try to scour the voter list for felons, blocked from voting at that time.  DBT was given a broad search mandate, allowing them to come up with 60,000 names, that Harris then sent to the 67 counties in the state advising them to purge those names from the voter rolls.  In a lawsuit from many who were stopped from voting in election, it turned out that DBT had used the names of felons from 10 other states on the match among other problems.

What were the consequences?  As Filkins soberly reports, “Officials from D.B.T., forced to reexamine the list, admitted that at least twenty thousand voters had been improperly flagged – roughly forty times the number of votes separating Bush from Gore.”  An expert who worked for the plaintiffs in the suit, “believes the actual number was higher…” saying “The state’s records were a mess, and they were hiding things from us – they were lying…I think they wanted to do it to insure a victory for Bush.”

Voter suppression is a real thing, and the lack of transparency and incompetence involving purges of the voting list in Florida – and elsewhere – may hold elections, and certainly any pretense of democracy, in balance, this November, just as it did in November 2000.

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The Dangers of No One Looking at Info and Data

Pearl River     A million years ago a random snip of an article or book or something, I honestly don’t remember, made what seemed to me a profound observation.  The author or reporter said that one of the weaknesses of modern America at the time – 50 years ago – is that we collected more information than we ever used or evaluated.  That was then, when having an IBM Selectric was the bomb, and computers were something big business spent millions to buy and NASA used to get people to the moon.

Modern data collection is exponentially larger and more extensive than any wizard might have imagined back then.  Every day we find out more information is being sliced, diced, stored, sold, and used to exploit everything from privacy to geopolitics.  It’s unimaginable, and at the grassroots level we can’t pretend to compete.  What gets me though is the unbelievably outrageous presumption by big enterprises of all kinds that they can say anything anywhere, including on government-mandated reports, and assume that no one is looking and will sort out whether they are telling Peter the same thing as Paul, or in fact telling anyone. According to Netskope, it is extremely important that companies understand the value of Secure Internet Gateway and learn the ways of protecting their data.

            Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally produced a form for financial companies to complete to provide more transparency for small potatoes investors. The “customer or client relationship summary” or Form CRS was supposed to do the trick after years of wrangling about whether or not money advisors needed to act in the best interests of their clients.  They complied with lies.  1200, almost 20%, of the 6200 that filed falsely claimed that neither they nor their financial professionals had legal or disciplinary histories.  The Wall Street Journal caught that one, but not the SEC seemingly.  Now known, what will they do about it?
  • Hospitals are required to provide detailed cost reports to the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). Nonprofit hospitals because of their tax-exempt status are required to file an annual 990 form with the Internal Revenue Service which in schedule H requires them to list their charitable expense.  Hospitals routinely overstate their charitable donations to the IRS differently than what they report to CMS and inflate their un-reimbursed cost item to CMS.  What are the consequences?  None that we can find.
  • Almost all police jurisdictions at the local and even many at the state level keep reports on domestic abuse, but there is no federal database, allowing an abuser to move from jurisdiction and state to state, as if they had no record. The same is true with statistics on police firearm use and fatalities, where federal record keeping is lax and many jurisdictions do not report.
  • Financial lending statistics to lower income families and racial minorities are required submissions by all financial institutions to the Federal Reserve, but almost no one looks every year at their record, and we have found even when the Fed requires an agreement on investment to approve a merger, there’s no follow-up or consistency in requiring compliance.

I could go on and on.  You get the message.  I’m not even mentioning our massive data project with the Voter Purge Project to collect data on purges and drops and determine if these are false or accurate with was recently covered in Wired. 

We’ll come back to this soon.  It’s a problem demanding a solution.

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