Voter purge may have decided Senate election

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 using 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 states 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 mail, 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 majority 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.

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8 Responses to “Voter purge may have decided Senate election”

  1. Gunny G Says:

    Reblogged this on BLOGGING BAD w/Gunny G ~ "CLINGERS of AMERICA!".


  2. Paul H. Lemmen Says:

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.


  3. prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

    Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.


  4. Perette Barella Says:

    I’m against election tampering in whatever form it takes. But as an election inspector, purging the roles doesn’t seem like a bad thing in and of itself: people move and people die. Unless something is done, those voters remain listed on the rolls indefinitely. There needs to be a process in place to purge the bad data from the lists. Scanning a rolls, sending those people postcards and asking them to confirm they are still there doesn’t seem like a bad or unfair solution. We can debate the choosing mechanism, but name similarity doesn’t seem horrible, though I can see it prejudicing against last name “Smith”… If I was in charge, I’d probably set removal candidate criteria to only look at individuals who hadn’t voted in 5 years or so, enough to cover a presidential election.

    As a computer scientist, the trouble in doing this is names rarely compare exactly. Am I Perette Barella, Perette M. Barella, or Perette Michelle Barella? I’m all three. The example of two people with different middle names seems like trouble, until considering that “Antonio” is Italian or perhaps Spanish for “Thomas,” and both are potentially nicknamed “Tony” or even “Tom”. If everybody was registered consistently under their proper, full name as written on their birth certificates, exact naming would match—but real world data is never that way. To purge the roles, some fuzzy logic is necessary or it’ll barely make a dent, and there is no inherent reason this fuzzy logic would target one party’s members over another.

    If rolls weren’t purged, in a few decades turnout will be 15% instead of 30%—not because of voter apathy but because of all the inaccurate listings on the books. And lots of bad listings opens the door to other kinds of fraud, such as utilizing the League of Dead Voters to sway the outcome.


    • philebersole Says:

      Imagine this situation. Your voter registration is canceled, with or without notice to you, because somebody named Parette Barella voted in Connecticut.

      The burden of proof is now on you to prove you are not that person.

      Although this would be annoying, it would be relatively easy to straighten out, PROVIDED THAT you are a middle class person who can take time off from work, PROVIDED THAT you have access to a car and could easily get to the relevant offices and ESPECIALLY PROVIDED THAT you are dealing with people who are acting in good faith and not deliberately trying to disenfranchise you.

      Otherwise, not so easy.

      I certainly agree with good-faith efforts to keep voter registration information up to date, and with prevention of people voting in the same jurisdiction under multiple names. I don’t think this is a serious problem. It is not the problem that CrossCheck purports to address.


    • whungerford Says:

      NYS voters get a postcard every two years which will be returned to the election commission if the voter has moved.


  5. whungerford Says:

    What’s missing in the article is an estimate of how many voters who thought they were registered were not able to vote.


  6. philebersole Says:

    The issue is not postcards or middle initials, as I’ve evidently failed to make clear.

    The issue is that voter registrations are being canceled, and voters are being frightened with the specter of prosecution.

    And that the basis for this is the idea that large numbers of people are voting twice the same day in separate states, in places separated by hundreds of miles.

    This is being done not because of sincere concern over honest voting, but to give the Republican Party a partisan advantage over the Democratic Party.

    If this is not clear (and based on the above comments, I evidently didn’t make it clear), I strongly urge you to watch the video or read Greg Palast’s full article. He is a great investigator, and the results of his investigations should be known.


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