Talking Points Memo yesterday had a must-read piece about former U.S. Attorney & Karl Rover apparatchik Tim Griffin's voter suppression antics during the 2004 election.
From the piece:
For years, Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who’s been at the center of the U.S. attorney controversy, has been dogged by allegations that he was a part of a 2004 scheme to block African-Americans in Florida from voting.
As Greg Palast first reported for the BBC, an August, 2004 email sent to a number of Republican National Committee operatives contained a spreadsheet of the names and addresses of more than 1,800 voters in Duval County, Florida, a mostly white county that includes the city of Jacksonville. Palast reported that the addresses were located in mostly black neighborhoods, and his story, followed by others posted this year on his website and the Brad Blog, alleged that the list was compiled in order to challenge African-American voters at the polls. We sought to test that conclusion through our own analysis of the data.
The result? Our comparative analysis of the spreadsheet with Duval County voter rolls shows that most names were of African-Americans. (For more on the analysis, see below.) Such a finding, voting rights experts told me, strengthened allegations that Griffin, working for the Republican National Committee, was involved in an effort to target African-American voters. “It is difficult to explain other than an effort to target Democrats and by extension, minority voters,” Toby Moore, a former political geographer with the Justice Department, said.
Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at George Mason University and an expert on elections statistics, said that the chance that the list is randomly so different from the population is less than 1 in 10,000. It is illegal to target voters based on their race under the Voting Rights Act. Griffin resigned earlier this month as the U.S. attorney for Little Rock after a six-month stint.
Sound familiar? It should. A similar thing -- not exact, but similar -- happened in Milwaukee in the run up to the 2004 election. If you recall, the RPW tried to removed more than 5,000 names from the voter rolls and failing that vowed to challenge the voters at the polls. The RPW found the alleged bad addresses -- quite often transcription errors -- by checking registration information of Milwaukee's more than 368,000 registered voters against Postal Service data.
From the 10/28/2004 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Although the state Republican Party failed Thursday in its effort to have 5,619 names and addresses removed from Milwaukee voting lists, the GOP plans to challenge anyone who tries to vote from the disputed addresses Tuesday.
Polling-place challenges could bring a high level of emotion to an issue that was argued Thursday in largely dry legal terms, with the city Election Commission unanimously deciding the GOP had not sufficiently proved its case to have the names removed.
Nevertheless, the city moved Thursday to take its own steps to flag problematic addresses so poll workers could make their own challenges. Mayor Tom Barrett suggested that all voters bring identification with them to alleviate potential problems.
Republicans filed a challenge of 5,619 names at 4:57 p.m. Wednesday, three minutes before the legal deadline. The party identified the addresses as vacant after using a computer to compare 386,527 names on city registration lists against a U.S. Postal Service database of all known street addresses in the city.
The big question of course is whether the RPW targeted black voters. The Brawler's not saying they did, because he doesn't know. Partly because that was a question the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel left completely unexplored (instead George Stanley prodded Greg Borowski to whip up fears about problems in Milwaukee's electoral process).
That said, the addresses mentioned in the story suggest yes. Unless there's been a white influx at 43rd and Teutonia about which the Brawler is unaware.
Other circumstantial evidence that this was aimed at black voters: While the state GOP did a similar address run of other, substantially whiter cities in Wisconsin, it never disclosed what it found there:
James Konowalski, who did the analysis for the GOP, said he had done similar comparisons for Racine, Appleton, Madison and Green Bay. Republicans have not filed similar challenges in those cities.
And days later, after the state GOP raised questions about more than 31,000 additional addresses, party chair Rick Graber said:
In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Graber acknowledged the party is asking local officials, including the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, to voluntarily take the step as the right thing to do.
Asked why the party was not asking other communities to take the same voluntary precautions and computer check their lists before Tuesday, Graber said the Milwaukee voter list is a "mess" and cause for great alarm.
"You mean why aren't we doing this in Wausau?" he said. "We certainly could."
After a pause, he added: "And perhaps should."
Has OJ found the killer yet?
1. Why didn't Steve Biskupic -- who locked up a grandmother who voted when she shouldn't have and tried to lock up a young mother who, at the direction of a poll worker, filled out two registration cards -- look into this? Even if the RPW was on the up and up, it looked a little hinky, to say the least. And Bisk took the trouble to investigate a legit voter registration drive at the county jail.
2. When will the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel realize that the big question in Wisconsin politics is not voter fraud but how the GOP is trying to suppress the minority vote? And when will it treat this as an issue worthy of coverage? It's the tribune of a majority minority city, after all. The GOP pulled similar stunts in Ohio and elsewhere. This behavior is part of a pattern. You'd think those watchdogs would wake up and smell the mendacity. Reporters -- at least the good ones -- are packrats. The Brawler is confident Borowski still has the list of the addresses challenged by the RPW. Maybe he and his computer assisted comrades can determine whether the GOP targeted voters of a darker skin complexion. Might make for a good story -- and the Brawler won't even try to take credit!
3. When will Herb Kohl or Russ Feingold or Tammy Baldwin or John Conyers or Patrick Leahy or somebody recall Rick Graber from the Czech Republic, where he scandalously is the face of American democracy as the U.S. ambassador, and have him explain what he was trying to do? Also, it would be interesting to see what the RPW found in Appleton and Green Bay. Were the lists there so pristine as not to raise concerns?