Tag Archives: voter registration

Republicans Swamp Battlegrounds on Voter Registration

New Orleans      We’re at Halloween, there’s a blue moon, and it’s a super-scary time with the election only days and hours away.  What me worry?  Hell, yes!

I’m still fretting and fuming over various voter registration campaigns having, until very, very recently, ceded the work in the field to become zoombies, tele-workers, texters, and digitizers.  At the Voter Purge Project, we have continued to be disturbed that campaigns of all shapes and sizes are not reckoning with the number of voters being eliminated from the lists, even as new voters, at great time and expense, are being added.  Various campaigns have claimed voter registration gains and advantages, even while not looking at voters in total or by party registration. They were campaigning with one arm tied behind their backs.  Of course, not being willing in the pandemic, even as restrictions eased, to hit the doors, meant that additionally both legs were cemented to some office or bedroom floor, rather than beating the streets for voters.

That wasn’t a problem for the Republicans, because they did in fact let their feet do the walking, and it shows, perhaps painfully and fatefully, in the results.  A report in the Wall Street Journal documents the results to our peril:

In Pennsylvania, state records show Republican gains in voter registration. While Democrats still outnumber Republicans by close to 700,000 voters, the gap has narrowed by about 230,000 since the 2016 election. That’s a potentially meaningful change in a state that Mr. Trump won by 44,000 votes. In Florida, the Democratic advantage in voter registration has narrowed to 134,000, state records show. The Democratic lead was about 330,000 voters in 2016, when Mr. Trump won the state by about 113,000 votes. In North Carolina, Democrats have slightly out-registered Republicans since the last election, according to data from L2, a nonpartisan firm that collects voter records. Yet, other changes in the electorate have cut the overall Democratic lead in registered voters by about 160,000 as of September.

As I have said before, being afraid to mask up, talk from the porch, and hit the doors could be the reason the Democrats lose to the Republicans in the 2020 election, both at the top of the ticket and in the fight to control the Senate.  Both ideologically and tactically, the Republicans understood there was no substitute for eye-to-eye, person-to-person contact, and as much as the Democrats decry social media and the tech overlords, they seem to have been content to live and die by their tools, rather than having faith in their ability to persuade people, even in this election where the contrasts are so clear and the stakes so dire.  If the Democrats didn’t to their job of expanding the voting pool, even with a record 150 million projected voters, demographic destiny is easily trumped by dutiful attention to the doors when it comes to registration and turnout, meaning that they could drown in the swallow waters, just as easily as they could at high tide.

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Field Testing Voter Purges and “Drops”

Columbus        As the Voter Purge Project moves forward, we are now analyzing the voter files on more than a dozen states on our way to double that number in coming weeks, many of them include the hotly contested “battleground” states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina.  The VPP is processing these lists with our database team in order to assure that any voter suppression efforts are prevented from purging legitimate voters or purging voters in a discriminating way based on race, ethnicity, income or any other reason.  Early results have been encouraging with some important results in terms of voters saved and purges forestalled, but the project continues to wrestle with huge questions and concerns.

One of the most puzzling is determining the difference between purges for death or address changes as opposed to unexplained “drops” or voter disappearances.  Another is of course whether in states like Ohio and Georgia where a piece of mail can trigger a purge if there has not been a recent voting history, the purge is legitimate.

I spent time with former ACORN organizers in person and on the phone while in Columbus trying to puzzle out a field test that would combine our database analysis and questions with on-the-ground door knocking to determine either the answers or the legitimacy of these actions by the government.  In Columbus, we decided to look at four zip codes dotted in the heart of our historic low-and-moderate income, African-American constituency in Ohio.  We analyze the Ohio voter file on a weekly basis when it is posted on the Secretary of State’s website, so we can tell who the “disappeared” are in almost real time.

The plan would be to pull the names that are deleted in these zip codes from week to week and then to deploy organizers on the ground to visit the last known address of the voter that was in our database before they were either purged or dropped.  By keeping rigorous records of whether or not the actions were valid or not, we estimate that we would be able to determine the accuracy of the government’s actions and calculate a percentage of validity in the list.  In Ohio and other states where on-line registration is possible, we might be able to re-register them on the spot or work out a verification system with the authorities so that they were put back on the list.  If this works, we would do identical field tests in Atlanta, Georgia, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The notion for this kind of field test occurred to me as I visited Barbara Clark, a former ACORN organizer in the childcare center where she was working part-time.  She and some other former ACORN members from time to time were involved in circulating petitions for various initiatives in Columbus and were often paid by the signature.  She was complaining about the problems her team would have in collecting their money when the signature verifiers would claim that signature were invalid when the people signing had sworn to them that they were registered.  In thinking with her about a way to use our voter list access to keep her team from being ripped off, it seemed like there might be a way to reverse engineer her negative experience and find a way to “clean” the list in the street and build a firewall and prevention program around these purges and voter disappearances preemptively.

Organizing is all about listening, and you have to be in the streets to really hear and understand the issues and get your arms around them. Welcome to my world!

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