Sep 25, 2012
By: Randall Holmes in PDA Clean Fair Transparent Elections Team (Files) | 9.22.12
Deterrence of Suppression by Inspecting Voter History Databases – A How-To Guide for 2012
Because Bev Harris of Black Box Voting found a scheme of digital voter suppression in Shelby County, TN, by inspecting the voter history databases compared over several elections, activists are being encouraged to submit public records request for these databases.
In Shelby County, which is in the district of Rep. Steve Cohen, a rare Democratic House member from TN, voter histories were being retroactively erased to allow the voters to be purged as Inactive. 98% of the voters affected were African-American Democrats.
To deter this scheme elsewhere – especially where close races can affect the balance of power in Washington – activists are submitting public records requests to their county election offices, and asking for the jurisdiction’s voter history databases. (“Voter history databases” and “voter rolls” are often used interchangeably, but the “database” word is more accurate for our purpose. We want to see the list of all voters, at each moment in time: Active, Inactive, and Cancelled.)
The “snapshots” in time that we are requesting are the databases as they existed for: General Election ’08; General Election ’10; Primary Election ’12; – and most current version available.
A sample request letter that you can cut and paste with your own contact information and addressee is included at the end of this document (it is based on PDA Advisory Chair Mimi Kennedy’s request to the LA County Registrar; she took the template from Black Box Voting.) Send the letter certified mail and be sure to include your contact info – phone, e-mail, and address – for an answer within the legal time period (usually 7-10 days.)
Pick up the information in person at your Registrar’s election office. It must be on compact disc, as requested. Bring a laptop capable of opening the files on the CD before you leave so you can see you have obtained the information you requested. There may be a fee; ask to be told in advance what it is. It should not be prohibitive. Contact your PDA coordinator if you need help raising the funds (LA fee was $200.)
Rachel Maddow’s recent show publicized the fact that right wing Tea Partiers are being bankrolled to make these requests. The right-wing’s stated reason is seeking dead voters to purge. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#49112935
Our reason is to look for evidence of manipulated purges and prep for purging.
Every request made is hugely helpful in that it identifies elections offices friendly to citizen oversight and transparency – and those that obstruct and deny it.
Here is the ask:
The voter rolls as they existed at four separate times:
1) General Election ’08;
2) General Election ’10;
3) Primary Election ’12;
3) rolls as currently comprised.
We do not need all the columns of information; we request specifically:
1) Voter ID #
2) Voter name
3) Party Designation
4) Status (Active, Inactive, Cancelled)
5) Reason for status (not voted in past elections? deceased?)
6) Date status was assigned
7) Method of voting (VoteByMail/Absentee; Voted At the Polls; Early Voting)
IMPORTANT! YOU DO NOT WANT the VAN list of voters that is given to political parties for Get Out the Vote! That list only includes Active voters and is not useful for our purpose. It contains information, like street addresses, that we do not need. But elections officials often think you want the VAN list and are used to providing it. Make sure your letter notes this is not what you’re asking for.
The information you are requesting is required, by law, to be kept by election offices, and which the California Public Record act gives citizens the right to see.
FORMAT – LAST BUT NOT LEAST!
The data on the CD must be in format of DELIMITED TEXT FILE (.csv or .tab) or standard data form such as MS Access.
Finally – when you have obtained the information, contact your local or state PDA coordinator. PDA will help get it to a database analyst.
For more information, go to http://www.blackboxvoting.org/toolkit-public-records.pdf
Mimi Kennedy (Name as Registered: Mary C Kennedy)
1234 Glitz Ave.
TInsletown, CA 91406
Dean Logan, Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters*
124000 lmperial Highway
Norwalk, CA 90650
Request for Public Records
Attention: Brenda Williams
Dear Dean Logan:
This letter, a public records request pursuant to the California Public Records
Act, Government Code Section 6250 et seq., and the California State
Constitution** is to request access to and copies of public records and information in the possession of the County of Los Angeles*** that give the information requested.
I request access to, and true copies of, the voter histories database from the
federal presidential election of November, 2008; the federal election of November
2010, and the primary election of June, 2012. I want this list to include:
1) all registered voters, including cancelled voters;
2) their voting history for each of the years requested;
3) their voting method (vote-at-polls, VBM, early voting);
4) their status (active/inactive/cancelled) in the requested elections;
5) their status reason (why they’re assigned this status);
6 ) the date status was assigned.
Please provide this information on compact disc in digital format as a delimited text file (.csv or .tab) or in standard data form such as MS Access.
Please notify me of any fees involved before you generate the information, and please notify me when it is ready for in-person pick-up.
Mimi Kennedy (voter name: Mary C Kennedy)
Progressive Democrats of America
Cell: 000-000-0000 Home: 000-000-0000 firstname.lastname@example.org
*Look up the name and address of the official in charge of the records
**Each requestor look up, read, and fill in your own pertinent state public records law!
*** Fill in your own county jurisdiction