Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: Karl Rove and the Republican Dark Art of Election Theft
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Really? Including these folks? Here were the Bush-Cheney “donors” who all lived at the State Street Rescue Mission: Page after page of names contained residents of homeless shelters.
Want to try again, Mrs. Tucker Fletcher?
A “caging list,” she explained, was a term of art in the junk mail business referring to returned letters. I knew that. The Republicans, she said, didn’t want to send duplicates to wrong addresses.
You don’t say! So Mindy, you’re telling me that Karl Rove’s top attack dog is now running the mailroom via confidential messages to state party chairmen—for address corrections?
Why don’t I give you one more try, Mrs. Tucker Fletcher. Could these, by chance, be lists used to systematically challenge the registrations of voters of color?
Mindy Tucker Fletcher grinned and said, carefully, “This is not a challenge list. That’s not what it’s SET UP to do.”
You see, we’d already made a couple of visits to experts before stopping by Fortress Bush. After sending the lists to America’s junk mail king Mark Swedlund, who’d helped me on many an undercover investigation, I had a damn good idea what these were—an opinion confirmed, without prompting, by Ion Sancho, Florida’s county elections supervisor, the recognized expert on voting systems—and vote heists. “They couldn’t be anything but challenge lists. And if they are, they’re breaking the law.”
More than one law, actually, especially if the targets have a racial or religious profile. And it would be breaking a consent decree: years earlier, the Republican National Committee was caught challenging black voters en masse at polling stations and had promised, under penalty of perjury, not to do it again.
Now it looked like they were doing it again, but in a most sophisticated way. Bobby Kennedy explained the game: “They send out letters to poor black and Hispanic voters, first class, with instructions to return, don’t forward, if the letter is not deliverable. The returned [“caged”] letter is then used as ‘evidence’ the voter’s listed address is fraudulent, and the Republican functionary then gets the name struck from voter rolls, or the absentee ballot, if mailed in, is not counted.”
Targeting the black, Hispanic and Jewish vote this way is not just icky and racist, it’s against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Kennedy’s late father Bobby Sr., the US attorney general, and his uncle, President John Kennedy, helped draft. Bobby Jr., looking at the evidence, suggested hard time for Griffin and Rove.
But who was going to prosecute Griffin and company, anyway? Was the Bush Justice Department going to tell Mr. Griffin to “spread 'em"? Mr. Griffin, of the Bush campaign? Mr. Griffin, assistant to the senior advisor to President Bush?
The Hysteria Factory
In early 2004, George Bush was not a popular president, what with wars and his billionaires leaving so little for the rest of us. But if malcontents, black folk, Latinos, and Jews lost their registrations, didn’t get to vote, were afraid to vote, then swing states like New Mexico, Ohio and Florida could be flipped.
A massive attack on voter rolls to remove names, to block voters from casting ballots, and challenging votes cast should do it. Millions of votes are made to disappear by stealth or just sheer incompetence, but Americans are too enamored of the television story of their democracy that they don’t see it and won’t hear of it.
The chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, Mary Frances Berry, told me, “Elections aren’t stolen in the vote count—they’re stolen in the no count,” a thought perceptive enough to have her removed from the commission by President Bush.