Tag Archives: Voter Purge Project

Morgan Harper, candidate for Congress in Ohio 3rd district

Second Saturday Salon in Columbus

Columbus        It has been a long day, but a good one in Columbus, Ohio. I had met for hours with my colleague and partner in the Voter Purge Project, Steve Tingley-Hock, in Marysville, a bit more than 30 miles out of town, and then at the Lincoln Café in town with Barbara Clark, the former head organizer for ACORN in the city with some of her old members about starting ACORN again.  I was staying in a bedroom off the 3rd floor library in the home of the multii-dimensional activists, Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer, who were teachers, lawyers, editors, film, radio and video impresarios, and more.   They had been my hosts at the Columbus Film Festival 18 months ago when “The Organizer” was the social justice film of the year, and Bob and I had crossed paths in Detroit in the 70s.  Subsequently, I had contributed an almost every month column on organizing to the Columbus Free Press that they own and edit.  I reached out for Suzanne at the last minute and asked if they had room for me in the attic for my quickly scheduled trip to meet with Steve.  She’d said, of course, but mentioned the Free Press crowd was getting together that Saturday night from 7pm on, and I was welcome to attend as well, since it was going to be in the house.

Little did I know?  The event turned out to be the Second Saturday Salon, which they have hosted ever second Saturday since 2004!  It’s impossible not to appreciate the value of such  a gathering of the tribes in Columbus, ostensibly in the name of the paper.

It was advertised as an open house salon from 630pm to midnight.  I went down a bit after 7pm not wanting to interrupt the festivities by checking my phone too often in Ohio State’s backyard in the last minutes of what looked like the end of a long drought with LSU beating Alabama. I was wrong for that, since it turned out the game was on in one of the rooms with a crowd. People were everywhere. Food and drink were laid out in several rooms.  It was a diverse crowd,skewing a bit towards the elderly, but not too ridiculously.

Harvey Wasserman with Canvassers

With the game over and people well fed, there was an effort to share a program for those interested.  The first speaker was Morgan Harper, a dynamic 36-year old African-American woman who was running as a Democrat against a long established incumbent black woman.  She was endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the upstart group pushing a more left Congressional program in the shadow of some of the 2018 midterm upsets.  I was lavishly introduced by Bob for some brief remarks about ACORN’s current work around housing and tenant rights as well as an update on the brand new Voter Purge Project and its impact on Ohio.  Harvey Wasserman, a longtime anti-nuke activist from the area spoke at some length with two canvassers, one a former ACORN worker, on their recent effort to get a referendum on the ballot and the intimidation their teams had faced from blockers paid by the utility company and a competitive fake petition that paid them $8 per signature.  Quite a story!

Regardless, what a wonderful way to gather people, update and let them meet and greet, network and exchange information, old and new.  I picked up a volunteer who was game to help on the data crunching and another who said she would help raise money for us to acquire voter files.  Harper, whose great signs encouraged people to be “morganizers,” got some signatures on her filing petition.  I snuck out before ten to my resting place, but it was still going strong with about 15 or 20 people milling about.

Every city should be lucky enough to have such a salon!  Why not yours?


Georgia Voter Purge Begins Early, but Why Purges?

New Orleans        We knew it was coming.  When the American Voters Project combined with ACORN International and Labor Neighbor Research and Action Project to create the Voter Purge Project one of our first conversations was about adding Georgia to the list of states we needed to monitor aggressively.  Within days we were hearing calls for help from the New York Times and NPR.  Everyone saw this train coming down the track and none of us were ready when one full year before the election the office of the Georgia Secretary of State announced that they were preparing to purge 300,000 voters from the list, almost 4% of the registered voters in the state.

Georgia had been ground zero in the divisive and controversial recent election for governor there when the existing Secretary of State in charge of the election itself was able to narrowly defeat state legislator and African-American woman Stacey Abrams by a bit more than one-percent of the vote.  His utilization of voter purges and control of the voter list and election process was a huge issue in the election, and has become the main political project of Abrams subsequently.  In 2020, the state has two Republican Senators up for re-election making Georgia a battleground from the top of the ballot on down.

The spokesperson for the coming purge in George was quoted in The New York Times to the effect that this was natural and something that all states are doing, as if that answered any potential question about the practice or the impact of such purges.  Certainly, to the degree that the names of deceased voters are on the list, it makes sense to remove them.

Some of the other rationales for the practice are less clear.  The next most common has to do with correct addresses, but this argument isn’t a slam dunk.  It clearly favors homeowners as citizen-voters rather than tenants who are forced to move more often, and it favors higher income tenants compared to those living more precariously.  Little is done to make the process easier for tenants to vote, and the primacy of a home address to a citizen’s right to vote seems more like a record keeping problem, than a useful bar to democratic process.

The most specious argument in some ways may be the rationale that voters that have not participated in recent elections need to be removed from current and future elections, especially given the ideological devotion most states currently ascribe to voter IDs.  In countries like the USA where there is no mandatory obligation to vote, why would an eligible, registered voter be removed from voting rolls?  The claim of potential voter fraud disappears when voters in most areas have to show IDs now, which would establish their identity and eligibility regardless of whether or not they might have participated in recent elections.  In many cases, people aren’t voting because they don’t think their vote counts, the candidates and issues don’t seem compelling enough, or life, work, family and the myriad challenges prevent them from getting to the polls without extraordinary effort.  Why should they be purged? The Voter Purge Project also believes that with some work we can show that there is direct discrimination based on place, race, and income in such purges.

This train maybe coming in Georgia and many other states, but it seems clear that it needs to be slowed down or stopped until it is put on the right track.