Friday, June 16, 2006

African American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List

I was feeling quite despondent this morning, having recently written about my lack of faith in modern-day print and broadcast media, and I needed the journalistic equivalent of a triple espresso with four sugars. So I sat down at my desk, began scrolling through my cluttered IN box, and lo and behold, my hero Greg Palast is serving the very wake-up call (and restoration of my faith in True Journalism) that I'd hoped for:

The Republican National Committee has a special offer for African-American soldiers: Go to Baghdad, lose your vote.

A confidential campaign directed by GOP party chiefs in October 2004 sought to challenge the ballots of tens of thousands of voters in the last presidential election, virtually all of them cast by residents of Black-majority precincts.

Files from the secret vote-blocking campaign were obtained by BBC Television Newsnight, London. They were attached to emails accidentally sent by Republican operatives to a non-party website.

One group of voters wrongly identified by the Republicans as registering to vote from false addresses: servicemen and women sent overseas.

Here’s how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, “Do not forward”, to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as “undeliverable.”

The lists of soldiers of “undeliverable” letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters’ registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballots being counted.

One target list was comprised exclusively of voters registered at the Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station. Jacksonville is third largest naval installation in the US, best known as home of the Blue Angels fighting squandron.

Palast continues (bolds mine):

Our team contacted the homes of several on the caging list, such as Randall Prausa, a serviceman, whose wife said he had been ordered overseas.

A soldier returning home in time to vote in November 2004 could also be challenged on the basis of the returned envelope. Soldiers challenged would be required to vote by “provisional” ballot.

Over one million provisional ballots cast in the 2004 race were never counted; over half a million absentee ballots were also rejected. The extraordinary rise in the number of rejected ballots was the result of the widespread multi-state voter challenge campaign by the Republican Party. The operation, of which the purge of Black soldiers was a small part, was the first mass challenge to voting America had seen in two decades.

The BBC obtained several dozen confidential emails sent by the Republican’s national Research Director and Deputy Communications chief, Tim Griffin to GOP Florida campaign chairman Brett Doster and other party leaders. Attached were spreadsheets marked, “Caging.xls.” Each of these contained several hundred to a few thousand voters and their addresses.

A check of the demographics of the addresses on the “caging lists,” as the GOP leaders called them indicated that most were in African-American majority zip codes.

Ion Sanco, the non-partisan elections supervisor of Leon County (Tallahassee) when shown the lists by this reporter said: “The only thing I can think of - African American voters listed like this - these might be individuals that will be challenged if they attempted to vote on Election Day.”

These GOP caging lists were obtained by the same BBC team that first exposed the wrongful purge of African-American “felon” voters in 2000 by then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Eliminating the voting rights of those voters — 94,000 were targeted — likely caused Al Gore’s defeat in that race.

I urge you to read the whole thing, entitled Massacre of the Buffalo Soldiers. Once the verbal caffeine has awakened you, as well it should, get busy and contact your Congresspersons immediately and demand they support real election reform, starting with the elimination of illegally-conducted "voter purges", and, among other vital changes, the implementation of uniform, transparent, and verifiable elections nationwide, with paper ballots and a voter-verified paper audit trail.

And if you need further convincing in order to recognize the importance of having fair and transparent elections, consider this: the advancement of every single cause you care about--be it universal health care, a fair minimum wage, education, immigration reform, anything--depends on your having representation in government. If those who control our cities, our states, and indeed, our country, are not fairly elected and therefore not representing us, but, rather, the interests of large corporations and other groups--Big Oil and Big Pharma immediately leap to mind--we no longer have a democracy, and we will have ceded the only power available to us: the Will of the People. And when all is said and done, this is the single most effective weapon with which to do battle against the mighty and shockingly wealthy Goliaths that are these interests.

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