From Monica Goodling's opening statement to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee this morning [emphasis added]:
For the record, it's the practice of sending registered mail to minority voters, asking for a reply, and if one doesn't come back, the voter's right to vote is challenged either at the polls, or attempts are made to remove them from the voter rolls --- usually without their knowledge. Allegations have been made that this was done, based on race, in 2004, when registered letters were sent to the home addresses of African-Americans in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere. Most insidiously, letters were said to have been sent to U.S. troops who were away, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and thus did not (and could not) answer the registered mail. Their registrations were then reportedly challenged.
The RNC agreed to cease the practice in a 1986 consent decree in a court case brought after they had "tried to have 31,000 voters, most of them black, removed from the rolls in Louisiana when a party mailer was returned, " according to the Washington Post.
"The consent decrees that resulted prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud initiatives that target minorities or conduct mail campaigns to 'compile voter challenge lists.'"
Hopefully one of the Judiciary Committee Members will follow up on this, with either Goodling or in further interviews with McNulty or Griffin, who was Karl Rove's aide at the time, before he was later shoved into Bud Cummins' position as Arkansas U.S. Attorney.
UPDATE 2:45pm PT: The DoJ released a statement this afternoon from McNulty, in response to Goodling's testimony and her claims that his "public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects":
More on Vote Caging Lists at Wikipedia. The key details follow below...
Caging is a term of art in the direct mail industry. After a mailing is sent, caging is when information is processed that can be learned from the returns. A caging list is the compiled information that is transferred to the organization that hired the direct mail firm, in order for them to update their mailing lists and databases.
Caging has also been used as a form of voter suppression. A political party challenges the validity of a voter's registration; for the voter's ballot to be counted, the voter must prove that their registration is valid.
Voters targeted by caging are often the most vulnerable: those who are unfamiliar with their rights under the law, and those who cannot spare the time, effort, and expense of proving that their registration is valid. Ultimately, caging works by dissuading a voter from casting a ballot, or by ensuring that they cast a provisional ballot, which is less likely to be counted.
With one type of caging, a political party sends registered mail to addresses of registered voters. If the mail is returned as undeliverable - because, for example, the voter refuses to sign for it, the voter isn't present for delivery, or the voter is homeless - the party uses that fact to challenge the registration, arguing that because the voter could not be reached at the address, the registration is fraudulent. It is this use of direct mail caging techniques to target voters which probably resulted in the application of the name to the political tactic.
On the day of the election, when the voter arrives at the poll and requests a ballot, an operative of the party challenges the validity of their registration.
While the challenge process is prescribed by law, the use of broad, partisan challenges is controversial. For example, in the United States Presidential Election of 2004, the Republican Party employed this process to challenge the validity of tens of thousands of voter registrations in contested states like Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Republican Party argued that the challenges were necessary to combat widespread voter fraud. The Democratic Party countered that the challenges were tantamount to voter suppression, and further argued that the Republican Party had targeted voter registrations on the basis of the race of the voter, in violation of federal law.
Examples of political caging
From the Washington Post: "In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent letters to predominantly black neighborhoods in New Jersey, and when 45,000 letters were returned as undeliverable, the committee compiled a challenge list to remove those voters from the rolls. The RNC sent off-duty law enforcement officials to the polls and hung posters in heavily black neighborhoods warning that violating election laws is a crime.
The Washington Post continues: "In 1986, the RNC tried to have 31,000 voters, most of them black, removed from the rolls in Louisiana when a party mailer was returned. The consent decrees that resulted prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud initiatives that target minorities or conduct mail campaigns to 'compile voter challenge lists.'"
In October 2004, the BBC Newsnight program reported on an alleged so-called "caging list" maintained by the George W. Bush campaign that suggested that they may be planning possibly illegal disruption of African American voting in Jacksonville, Florida.
The BBC reports that it has obtained a document from George W. Bush's Florida campaign headquarters, inadvertently e-mailed to the parody website GeorgeWBush.org, containing a list of 1,886 names and addresses of voters in largely African-American and Democratic areas of Jacksonville. Democratic Party officials allege that the document is a "caging list" that the Bush campaign intends to use to issue mass challenges to African-American voters, in violation of federal law.
The list appears to have come to light because of what appear to be e-mails accidentally addressed by Republican campaigners to the georgewbush.org anti-Bush site instead of the georgewbush.com Bush campaign site. The e-mails had the subject line "Re: Caging" and contained Microsoft Excel spreadsheet file attachments called "Caging.xls" and "Caging-1.xls".
- Palast, Greg (June 2006) African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List, Democracy Now!
- Emails published on georgewbush.org