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October 19, 2006
 by Christopher Hayes
Christopher Hayes

THE PURGE THAT WASN'T Yesterday a Kossack posted a diary that got a lot of attention. Referring to a source on the inside, it alleged that in Ohio, GOP Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had engineered a massive purge of Democratic voters from the rolls. The allegation was that Blackwell had sent letters from the SOS offices to thousands of registered voters who were presumed to be Democrats -- university students and apartment dwellers -- and if the recipients failed to respond to confirm their identity, they were scrubbed from the voter rolls. Obviously, if such a thing took place, it would be an outrage, and likely illegal...

But I just spoke to the Randy Borntrager, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party who says it's almost certainly not true. "We're investigating it," he told me. "But it doesn't look like it's that credible. We can't find any examples of this supposed letter; we can't find examples of this supposed problem."

Borntrager did point out a related issue. Each county in Ohio did send out a mailing to registered voters telling them their polling location. If those letters were returned to sender, then the voter in question will have to either vote provisionally or produce ID on election day. (From what I understand, from Borntrager, all voters in Ohio this year have to produce ID) This might cause problems for groups that move around a lot, like college students, but as long as people provide identification they shouldn't be disenfranchised.

In our brief conversation, Borntrager was at pains to point out that no one should be discouraged or intimidated from voting, and they should take advantage of voting early, which Ohio has instituted state-wide this year. "We do not want people to be discouraged to go and vote early or on election day," he said. (Those who vote early by heading down to their local board of elections do not have to produce ID.)

His wariness in discussing the issue is further evidence of the dynamic I pointed to earlier . For Democrats, when it comes to election protection issues, the more you publicize possible issues with voter integrity the less likely people are to vote, which means these issues usually don't get fully discussed till after the fact.

The Ohio Democratic Party does have an election protection unit, with a hotline at 1-888-DEM-VOTE so if you're reading this and have run into problems you can drop a line in comments and/or give the hotline a call.

Christopher Hayes 2:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (8)

The ODP is the most incompetant lazy buncha boobs I've ever seen. I wouldn't believe them if they said they had investigated whats in the fridge for dinner.

If you do some research, you'll see that the Republicans did exactly this in 2004. They used return to sender as a basis to challenge in court people's right to vote. Most of these challenges failed when a ton of angry voters showed up at court. In the county I was in, the judge actually threatened a Republican volunteer lawyer with contempt and perjury charges to the point where she broke down in tears.

But in short, the "strip" mailing is a very common Republican tactic that they've used in every race I've ever worked on. It's not quite as crazy or outrageous as it sounds, but it certainly does happen.

Posted by: plunge on October 19, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

For Democrats, when it comes to election protection issues, the more you publicize possible issues with voter integrity the less likely people are to vote, which means these issues usually don't get fully discussed till after the fact.

You've said this before, and I'm not sure that I agree with it -- do you have some data to back it up, or is it more of a hunch?

It would seem to me that widespread dissemination of Republican efforts to prevent people from voting would stir up anger rather than apathy among the targeted groups, and provoke people to take to the polls to get back at the people dissing them. Not only that, but it would have the salutory effect or countering the propaganda in the first place, which would help to minimize the suppression effort.

But these are simply intuition on my part, and I'd love to know if anyone has any evidence one way or the other.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on October 19, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Don't plunge, plunge. The allegation was not a "return to sender" ploy -- it was that people were getting something they were required to return. Except that, so far, no one has reported getting or seeing such a thing, much less producing it as evidence. And there's a diary further debunking this alarmism on D'Kos right now.

Posted by: David in NY on October 19, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, right. It is all just conspiracy-mongering, and we shouldn't give publicity to these things.

I read the original diary and the one up right now, denying it.

The first diarist was quite clear about two things: first, that he was reported a rumor, and second, that he was also reporting on what two witnesses saw and heard in actual elections offices, which was quite discouraging. The second diarist, the refuting diarist, was equally clear that, on the ground, purges were on-going.

I know that if I personally had to wait for more than five minutes to vote, I would probably walk away. I don't care if the issue is too few voting machines or ID requirements or just bothched election organizing.

You can do as much to influence election outcomes with the mis-allocation of expensive voting equipment than with a million dollars of political advertising.

There are two alternatives to the ballot box. One is slavery, and the other is revolutionary violence. The Republicans are hoping we choose slavery. Christopher Hayes encourages us to choose slavery.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on October 19, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

"I know that if I personally had to wait for more than five minutes to vote, I would probably walk away."

Assuming you are being serious, Bruce, then congratulations—you've made one of the most asinine statements I have ever read. About any topic.

Like millions of other Americans at their polling places in 2004, I had to wait more than 35 minutes to cast my vote for John Kerry in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it was not due to equipment malfunction, devious GOP tricks, or incompetent poll workers. It was due to overflow crowds of like-minded voters who took their Constitutional rights seriously enough to wait as long to vote as they would for load of laundry in the washing machine. And yes, I know many voters elsewhere in the country had to wait far, far longer. At least those people realized that in the whole span of human history, the right to vote is actually pretty goddamn amazing, regardless of the circumstances, and worth the wait.

Every informed citizen should know about the criminal Diebold shenanigans and the equally- criminal GOP efforts to suppress turnout, but if you can't muster the patience and self-control to be an adult and wait a few minutes at a polling place, then you have conformed perfectly to Karl Rove's preferred Democrat metric: the flabby, limp faux liberal who just can't get it up when the circumstances fall just a wee bit short of ideal. You've made Karl and George and Dick very happy.

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 20, 2006 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

It happens in Seattle all of the time. And it is illegal here. Of course, Republican'ts only care about the law when it suits them.

Posted by: merlallen on October 20, 2006 at 6:35 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know if plunge is from Ohio or not but I am and he's right about ahia dems. Incompetence has been their watch word since dic celeste left office.

Posted by: klyde on October 20, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

All I'm saying is that such mailers happened in 2004 and were used to challenge people's right to vote. It happened. I was there.

Posted by: plunge on October 20, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

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