Statistician Nate Silver called the 2012 elections with almost pinpoint accuracy. But this time around he underestimated the Republican margins of victory by an average of 4 percentage points.
Greg Palast, an independent reporter, wrote that the explanation may be less in Silver’s forecasting methods than in the systematic disqualification of Democratic-tending voters by Republican state governments as a system called CrossCheck.
CrossCheck is a system for comparing the names of voters in different states. The assumption (if it were in effect in New York state) would be that if there is a record of a Phil Ebersole voting in Pennsylvania, Ohio or some other state as well as here in Rochester, N.Y., which is quite likely, they are all the same person voting in multiple states.
Just stop and think a minute about how crazy an idea this is.
Driving to anywhere in Pennsylvania would take two to five hours one way. The political consultant Dick Morris said on Fox News that up to 1 million Americans are doing this. That is, up to 1 million Americans have taken the trouble to register and vote in multiple states and then to go vote on election day.
This is—how shall I put it?—stark raving lunatic mad.
Greg Palast took the trouble to get officials of North Carolina, Georgia and some of the other Republican-controlled state that use CrossCheck to give him lists of names.
A quick attempt to verify showed that voters in different states were assumed to be the same person even if they had different middle names or different Social Security numbers—for example, Kevin Antonio Hayes of Durham, N.C., and Kevin Thomas Hayes of Alexandria, Va.
CrossCheck has matched slightly over 6.9 million names (just under 3.5 million pairs of voters), but not all of them are removed from the voter rolls.
The procedure is to send a postcard asking the person to verify their identity. If the person has moved and the postcard doesn’t reach its destination, or if the person mistakes the postcard for junk card, that’s it. They lose their right to vote.
Palast estimated that slightly under 20 percent of matched voters are disqualified by this mean, which would be about 1.3 million (650,000 pairs). He said the likely number of purged voters was greater than the margin of victory in the Senate elections in North Carolina, Colorado, Alaska and Georgia and the governorship elections in Kansas and Massachusetts.
He doesn’t have figures on what percentage of the CrossCheck names are black and Hispanic. About 67 percent of the 1,000 most common last names in the census are the names predominantly of blacks and Hispanics.
CrossCheck is a more sophisticated version of a system used to disqualify black voters in Florida years ago. The Florida state government hired a consultant to provide lists of names of persons convicted of felonies in other states. If those names matched the first and last names of Florida residents, those names were removed. Unsurprisingly, the major of people disqualified were black.
I think the current drive to narrow the voting franchise and to make voting more difficult is reprehensible. I hope the CrossCheck scandal—and it is a scandal—doesn’t make the other methods of discouraging voting seem less reprehensible by comparison.
Jim Crow Returns: Millions of minorities threatened by electoral purge by Greg Palast for Al Jazeera America. Greg Palast’s original report, published in October.
The Secret Lists That Swiped the Senate by Greg Palast. His post-election follow-up.
Note: I added a clarification that 6.9 million alleged double voters referred to individual names and not pairs of names.