In her prepared statement given this morning to the House Judiciary Committee, Monica Goodling reference “vote caging.” I’d never heard of this phrase and had no idea to what it referred.
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.
A practice I’ve read about, but didn’t realize it had a formal name. Scary to me that Ms. Goodling does and reference -ooo! She’s explaining it to Rep. Sanchez at this very minute on C-Span (11:09am).
It’s when you “separate addresses that are good from adddresses that are bad,” I believe “the term is used by direct mail vendors…”
Goodling then says that she knew that Tim Griffin was involved in what would be called that practice but, Goodling says, that it was for a good reason.
Scratching that I didn’t know this was an issue. It has to do with the emails with subject titles “Re: caging”:
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”.