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Vote caging, as commonly known, is a voter suppression tactic. The term is derived from a direct mail term. In the direct mail industry, when a third party runs a direct mailing campaign on behalf of a client organization, one of the activities undertaken is to compile all of the responses, handle contributions and to deposit received funds into the client's account, and also update the database of names and addresses that were mailed to with the responses or corrected addresses obtained. Since some of the activities were controlled carefully (donations and deposits) and conducted in a manner similar to the activities within a "teller's cage," the process is called "caging" and the end result of the data entry updates and address corrections is called a "caging list." This led to the term "voter caging" for voter registration analysis and challenges conducted via mass mailings.
Caging, as Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) "helpfully pointed out, 'is a term of art in mailhouses' – it refers to the place where letters go when they have no address, all batched up in a separate room."
As House Committee on the Judiciary chair John Conyers (D-MI) added, caging "in the context of elections 'is not an issue of the mail at all.' Voter caging, in the context of elections, means blocking voters out – choosing whole lists of voters whose vote will be challenged, chosen by whom and the criteria for challenge enunciated by whom, under this [the Bush] administration, still not fully explained."
How vote caging works
In vote caging, letters marked "Do Not Forward" are sent to selected voters. If letters are returned it is assumed that the voter no longer lives at the address, and the voter is either removed from the voting rolls, or is challenged if the voter arrives at a polling place on election day.
Flaws in vote caging
On the surface it may seem that a letter marked "Do No Forward" that is returned indicated that the intended recipient has moved from that location there are many alternate reasons that the letter could be returned. A person being treated for a long period in a hospital might, for example, ask that mail be forwarded until the person recovers. People going to another area for an extended vacation also might request that their mail be forwarded. In addition, the system depends on a 100% accuracy rate in mail delivery, which is especially unlikely in under-served or poor neighborhoods.
Legality of vote caging
In 1981, the Republican State Committee New Jersey and the Republican National Committee sent a mailing targeting primarily African-American and Latino neighborhoods. A lawsuit was filed, DNC v. RNC, and as part of a 1982 settlement in the case the Republican National Committee admitted wrongdoing and agreed to:
"...refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision to conduct, or the actual conduct of, such activities there and where a purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting."
The settlement was legally binding and applicable nationwide. Unfortunately, this method of voter suppression did not stop, and the 1982 consent decree has formed the legal basis for multiple challenges over the years. Some examples include:
- In 1986, the Louisiana Republican Party instituted a "ballot integrity program", which targeted parishes that supported Walter Mondale in 1984. After Democratic leaders in the state filed a $10 million lawsuit, a federal judge released an internal RNC memorandum which stated:
"I would guess that this program will eliminate at least 60-80,000 folks from the rolls," Kris Wolfe, a Middle Western regional director for the Republican National Committee, wrote. "If it's a close race, which I'm assuming it is, this could keep the black vote down considerably."
- In 1990, another consent decree was issued after the Republican Party of North Carolina and the re-election campaign of GOP Sen. Jesse Helms sent 125,000 postcards to mostly African American voters to compile a list of voters to challenge.
- In 2004, the Ohio Republican party sent out a mailer to newly-registered voters and used the results to create a challenge list. After several voters filed suit, the judge in the original DNC v. RNC case, Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise, ruled on Nov. 1, 2004 that the state GOP had violated the original injunction, and issued a court order banning the use of the challenge list. This decision was upheld on appeal; however, in the early hours of Nov. 2 -- election day -- the Third District Court issued a stay of Judge Debevoise's court order, allowing Republican challengers into the polls. 
Caging in the 2008 election
There are numerous reports of vote caging during the 2008 election cycle.
Florida: Possibly due to high foreclosure rates and poor economic climate in southwest Florida, even the traditionally Republican Collier and Lee counties were targeted by voter caging the weekend of September 6th, 2008. Letters from the John McCain campaign in envelopes marked "Do Not Forward" were mailed to voters registered either as Democrats, independent, or unaffiliated  throughout the area. The events prompted an extended discussion of voter suppression techniques on public radio Sound off with Sasha program on September 12, 2008 and an editorial from the Naples Daily News on September 22, 2008 that heightened awareness of the problem in the electorate.
- Ohio: In Ohio Project Vote warns that "significant numbers of minority voters will be included on the county-generated caging lists" if voters are removed without a hearing after the state mailed letters marked "Do not forward" and over 500,000 were returned as undeliverable.
- Michigan: A Republican plan to cage voters foreclosed from their homes was blocked before it could keep people from voting. As part of a settlement of a lawsuit seeking to prevent the use of foreclosure lists to challenge voters, the Republican party agreed that the appearance of an address on a foreclosure list does not constitute grounds for removal of voters from that address from registration rolls. From a statement by the Michigan Democratic Party,"The settlement acknowledges the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote." The Justice Department said it would "monitor closely" the caging reports.
- Montana: In Montana Project Vote issued a statement blasting vote caging of at least 6,000 residents based only on their filing change-of-address statements with the Post Office
Caging in the 2004 election
Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list". It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida. An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day." ...
When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list, Republican spokespersons claim the list merely records returned mail from either fundraising solicitations or returned letters sent to newly registered voters to verify their addresses for purposes of mailing campaign literature. Republican state campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher stated the list was not put together "in order to create" a challenge list, but refused to say it would not be used in that manner. Rather, she did acknowledge that the party's poll workers will be instructed to challenge voters, "Where it's stated in the law." There was no explanation as to why such clerical matters would be sent to top officials of the Bush campaign in Florida and Washington. Rather, she did acknowledge that the party's poll workers will be instructed to challenge voters, "Where it's stated in the law."
Palast also reported that:
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.
Tim Griffin, a former Karl Rove protégé, Republican political strategist and top adviser to President George W. Bush, was "formerly research director of the Republican National Committee. The 2004 BBC News report showed that Griffin led a 'caging' scheme to suppress the votes of African-American servicemembers in Florida."
The LA Times reported that "African-American leaders denounced the caging scheme as 'another 'shameful' Republican effort to keep blacks from voting.'"
Articles and resources
- Bush administration phony 'voter fraud'
- Christine Todd Whitman re N.J. Voter Suppression Allegations.
- The Presidential Coalition
- ↑ Margie Burns, "Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty Testifies to Congress One Last Time," The Brad Blog, June 21, 2007.
- ↑ Margie Burns, "Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty Testifies to Congress One Last Time," The Brad Blog, June 21, 2007.
- ↑ Justin Levitt and Andrew Allison, Reported Instances of Voter Caging', Brennan Center For Justice, June 29, 2007.
- ↑ Martin Tolchin, GOP Memo Tells of Black Vote Cut, New York times, October 25,1986.
- ↑ Democratic National Committee v Republican National Committee, Project Vote, gathered December 9, 2008.
- ↑ Florida does not have open primaries, so the majority of voters declare a party affiliation when they register to vote. Collier County Supervisor of election statistics records indicate 101,271 registered Republicans of 200,926 voters as of October 1, 2008.
- ↑ Naples Daily News, September 20, 2008, 
- ↑ Naples Daily News, September 20, 2008, 
- ↑ Naples Daily News, Letters to the editor, September 25, 2008, 
- ↑ Naples Daily News, September 22, 2008, Don't be Intimidated, Don't Yield Your Vote
- ↑ Ohio caging, see David G. Savage, "Battle brewing in Ohio over voting-record discrepancies," Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2008.
- ↑ Ertha Jane Melzer, "Lose your house, lose your vote," Michigan Messenger, September 10, 2008.
- ↑ emptywheel, "Michigan Dems and the Obama Campaign Sue for Foreclosure-Related Vote-Caging,", Firedoglake, September 16, 2008.
- ↑ Marcy Wheeler, "MI Republicans Admit to Illegal Foreclosure Scheme, “Surrender” to Democrats,", Emptywheel, October 20, 2008.
- ↑ Jonathan E. Kaplan, DOJ says it is monitoring Michigan GOP, Michigan Messenger, September 24, 2008.
- ↑ Montana statement by Project Vote, see Project Vote Blasts GOP Attack on Montana Voter, Jackson Free Press, October 3, 2008.
- ↑ Greg Palast, "New Florida vote scandal feared," BBC News, Oct. 26, 2004.
- ↑ Greg Palast, "Buffalo Soldiers Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List," GregPalast.com, undated.
- ↑ Amanda Terkel, "Post Reporter: 'So What Is This Caging Thing?'" Think Progress, May 25, 2007.
- ↑ Amanda Terkel, "Did White House Pull Nomination To Avoid Questions Over 2004 Minority Voter Suppression?" Think Progress, March 2, 2007.
- ↑ tonyroma, "Republicans 'Caged' in DOJ Scandal," Drudge Retort, May 26, 2007.
- Voter Caging, Project Vote.
- Vote Caging Map, Project Vote.
- Paul Farhi and Jo Becker, "Some Fear Ohio Will Be Florida of 2004," Washington Post, October 25, 2004.
- Greg Palast, "Republican 'Caging List'," BBC Television News Online (Dissident Voice; VoteLaw.com), October 26, 2004. See the "caging list" on Flickr.
- Greg Palast, "BBC TV Reveals New Florida Vote Scandal-Republican 'Caging List'," GregPalast.com, October 26, 2004.
- Greg Palast, "New Florida vote scandal feared," BBC News, October 26, 2004.
- Martin Sieff, "Florida sparks vote storm. BBC report sparks Florida vote storm," UPI (Omega.News), October 27, 2007.
- Farhad Manjoo, "More GOP dirty tricks in Florida? Investigative reporter Greg Palast discovers a 'secret' voting list, but the document doesn't necessarily prove Republican wrongdoing," Salon, October 27, 2004.
- "Secret Document Suggests GOP Preparing to Challenge Black Vote in Florida," Democracy Now!, October 28, 2004. Interview with Greg Palast.
- "New Evidence of Voter Blacklist in Florida?" Institute for Public Accuracy (Common Dreams), October 28, 2004.
- Benjamin Dangl and Brendan Coyne, "Voter Suppression Becomes Biggest Election ‘Issue’," The New Standard (UpsideDownWorld.org), October 31, 2004.
- Greg Palast, "The Ballots at the Back of the Bus. Most voters in Ohio chose Kerry; here’s how the votes vanished," In These Times, November 14, 2004.
- "Buffalo Soldiers Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List," GregPalast.com (As reported for Democracy Now!); Environmentalists Against the War.org, June 16, 2006.
- "Jim Crow 2.0," Progress Youth Blogspot, July 22, 2006.
- Cho, Roxy & Standingup, "Alberto Gonzales: Gaming the System Again in Arizona?" ePluribus Media, February 1, 2007.
- Amanda Terkel, "Did White House Pull Nomination To Avoid Questions Over 2004 Minority Voter Suppression?" Think Progress, March 2, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "BBC Television had exposed 2004 voter attack scheme by appointee Griffin, a Rove aide," The Free Press, March 7, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "Bush’s New US Attorney a Criminal?" GregPalast.com, March 28, 2007: "BBC Television had exposed 2004 voter attack scheme by appointee Griffin, a Rove aide. Black soldiers and the homeless targeted."
- Greg Palast, "The Talented Mr. Griffin. The senators grilling Alberto Gonzales should ask him about Arkansas’ new U.S. attorney—and his history of suppressing minority voters," In These Times, April 16, 2007.
- Greg Gordon, "Access Denied. The Bush administration has systematically worked nationwide and notably in Missouri to restrict voter turnout in ways that favor Republican candidates in close races," McClatchy Newspapers (Columbia Tribune), April 22, 2007.
- Joseph Cannon, "The prosecutor purge and vote suppression," Cannonfire Blogspot, April 23, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "Don’t fire Gonzales," The Free Press, April 28, 2007.
- 4Freedom, "Breaking: RF Kennedy, Jr. Says USA Griffin Under Investigation," Daily Kos, May 4, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "RFK: Rove And Rove’s Brain, ‘Should Be In Jail,’ Not In Office," GregPalast.com, May 7, 2007.
- Garrett Epps, "Karl Rove's big election-fraud hoax. Republican manipulation of the polls long predates the U.S. attorneys plot -- and the U.S. voting system needs an overhaul," Salon, May 10, 2007.
- Project Vote, "Talking Points: Voter fraud, US Attorneys and Suppressing the Vote," OpEdNews, May 11, 2007.
- Michael Winship, "Keep Out the Vote," TomPaine.com, May 15, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "An Army of Rove-Bots -- Captain Iglesias, Obstruction of Justice, and the Theft of 2008," BuzzFlash, May 16, 2007.
- "Monica Goodlings Opening Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee, May 23, 2007 (posted by Talking Points Memo).
- Connecticut Man1, "Tim Griffin, the Caging Lists and GONEzales," ePluribus Media, May 23, 2007.
- Lindsey Beyerstein, "McNulty knew about Griffin's vote caging, Goodling claims," Majikthise Blog, May 23, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "Journalist with BBC Has Rove Office Emails," OpEdNews, May 23, 2007; "Palast Exclusive: The Goods on Goodling and the Keys to the Kingdom. And The No Longer 'Missing' Rove Emails Revealing the Cagey Scheme to Steal 2008...," Brad Blog, May 24, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "Goodling Says Dep. Attorney General 'Incomplete or Inaccurate' in Regard to 'Vote Caging' Allegations About Karl Rove Aide. Says DAG Paul McNulty Withheld Knowledge of Tim Griffin's Involvement in Challenging Minority Voter Registration in 2004. Former Rove Aide Griffin Posted to U.S. Attorney Position in Arkansas...," Brad Blog, May 23, 2007.
- F. Vyan Walton, "Caging; It's Voter Suppression, Stupid!" OpEdNews, May 24, 2007.
- Dahlia Lithwick, "Raging Caging. What the heck is vote caging, and why should we care?" Slate, May 29, 2007.
- Steven Rosenfeld, "Democrats Fail in Election Oversight," AlterNet, May 29, 2007.
- "Probe White House e-mail on 'vote caging'," Green Party, May 30, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "Slate Becomes First 'MSM-ish' Outlet to Pick Up on Monica Goodling's 'Vote Caging' Admissions Concerning Now-Former U.S. Attorney and Karl Rove Aide, Tim Griffin Admits MSM, Congress Inexcusably Clueless About 'Vote Caging', Draws Bead on White House, Gives Palast His Due. Says 'Last week was the first time most of us heard about vote caging. It shouldn't be the last'," Brad Blog, May 31, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "Resignation of Former Rove Aide, Arkansas US Attorney Griffin, Came After Conyers Requested 'Vote Caging' Evidence from BBC. House Judiciary Chair Tells Palast in Interview: 'We're Not Through With Griffin by Any Means'. Indicates Caging Operation Could Not Have Been Done Without Knowledge of Rove, According to Palast Team...," Brad Blog, May 31, 2007.
- Democratic National Committee, News Release: "Bush Administration Owes Apology Over Assault on Voting Rights," PRNewswire-USNewswire, June 1, 2007.
- Greg Palast, "US Attorney Resigns Following Conyers’ Request for BBC Documents," GregPalast.com; "Cage Match. U.S. Attorney resigns following Conyers’ request for BBC documents," GNN, June 1, 2007; The Free Press, June 2, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "Another Good Sign: DNC Notices 'Vote Caging'. Links to Slate Article in Media Release...," Brad Blog, June 1, 2007.
- "Rove-Protege Tim Griffin Dismisses Caging: ‘I Didn’t Cage Animals, I’m Not A Zookeeper’," Think Progress, June 15, 2007.
- "The U.S. attorneys saga: A Q&A," McClatchy News Service (Miami Herald), June 18, 2007.
- Margie Burns, "Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty Testifies to Congress One Last Time. Hearing Clearly Reveals Continuing Lack of Interest in the Vote Caging Issue at DOJ. But McNulty Testimony Throws Little Light on DOJ Hirings and Firings," The Brad Blog, June 21, 2007.
- Greg Gordon, "Ex-Justice official accused of aiding scheme to scratch minority voters," McClatchy Newspapers, June 25, 2007.
- "U.S. attorney was ‘cheerleading’ for GOP caging scheme," Think Progress, June 25, 2007.
- Alan Breslauer, "VIDEO: Thursday Conyers / McNulty Vote Caging Exchange," The Brad Blog, June 25, 2007.
- "‘Caging’ investigation suggests minority vote suppresion," Think Progress, June 26, 2007.
- Paul Kiel, "Cage Match: Did Griffin Try to Disenfranchise African-American Voters in 2004?" TPMmuckraker, June 26, 2007.
- Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel), "Some Questions," The Next Hurrah, June 26, 2007.
- Mark Johnson, "Voter Suppression," ePluribus Media, June 26, 2007.
- drational, "ORIGINAL RESEARCH: The Truth about Caging in 2004," The Daily Kos, June 26, 2007.
- Alan Breslauer, "VIDEO: Infamous Tim Griffin Vote Caging/Crying Speech. TPM Muckraker Confirms Analysis of RNC 'Caging Lists' as Illegally Targetting Minory Voters...," The Brad Blog, June 26, 2007.
- drational, "Widespread Caging in 2004," The Daily Kos, June 27, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "RNC, Tim Griffin 'Vote Caging' Efforts Confirmed by
TwoThree Independent Reports. Blogosphere Finally Beginning to Get It --- as Even Greg Palast Critic Shores up Palast's Reporting --- While MSM Remain Mostly Silent...," The Brad Blog, June 27, 2007.
- Project Vote, "Vote Caging Bars Voters from Polls for Partisan Advantage," OpEdNews.com, June 29, 2007.
- Standingup, "Voter Caging: Is this Tool still in the RNC Arsenal?" ePluribus Media, July 3, 2007.
- J. Taylor Rushing, "Files show talks on 'vote caging'. Discussions with elections chief were prior to '04 election," The Florida Times-Union, July 7, 2007.
- Brad Friedman, "Paper: Internal Memos Contradict Florida Bush Team's Statements Concerning 'Voting Caging' Prior to '04 Election. Docs Based on Pre-Election Meetings in Duvall County Reveal Issue Was Repeatedly Discussed Despite Denials by Local Bush/Cheney '04 Election Chairman. DoJ Continues to Review U.S. Senator's Demand for a Full Investigation...," The Brad Blog, July 8, 2007.
- "Vote caging and how it works," Think Progress, July 29, 2007.
- "Suppressing Votes - and Science," PERRspectives Blog, July 29, 2007.
- James, Teresa. "Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters," Project Vote. September 2007.
- Ian Urbina, "States’ Purges of Voter Rolls Appear Illegal," New York Times, October 9, 2008.
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
- "Voter Purges," a Report from the Brennan Center for Justice, September 30, 2008.
- "Study Finds States Purging Millions of Voters in Secret, Often Erroneously," October 1, 2008