Voter Caging and Purging

Millions of voters are disenfranchised due to partisan and racially driven purges of voter registration lists

In 1999, shortly after Jeb Bush became governor, Florida embarked on a project to produce a master list of anyone who conceivably might have been a former felon, who would then be scrubbed from voter rolls. This flawed method was used by GOP partisan Secretary of State Katherine Harris to purge thousands from the voter rolls before the 2000 presidential election, many of whom were not felons. 

Twenty county election supervisors in Florida refused state’s directive to use the unreliable purge lists, including a Marion County elections supervisor who found her own name on the list.

The partisan purges, which targeted African Americans (likely Democratic voters) and left out Hispanic names entirely (likely Republican voters), was among many manipulative methods that helped George W. Bush claim the presidency by a slim 537-vote margin. 

The Florida GOP attempted a similar purge in 2004 but were thwarted by investigators. However, the tactic has spread nationwide.

Latest News: Voter Purges

Election officials across the country are routinely striking millions of voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.
— The Brennan Center for Justice

Interstate Crosscheck

In 2014, according to an investigation by award-winning reporter Greg Palast, 23 Republican-controlled states used a voter-roll purge system called Interstate Crosscheck, which he believes altered the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Interstate Crosscheck is a computer system that officials claim can identify anyone who commits the crime of voting twice in the same election in two different states. 

According to Palast, "The list of seven million 'suspects' did not yield a single conviction for double voting, but Crosscheck did provide the grounds for removing the registrations of tens of thousands of voters in battleground states."

We can conservatively calculate that the purge of 19 percent of the Crosscheck lists accounted for at least three GOP Senate victories—and thereby, control of the Senate.
— Greg Palast

Facts on the 2014 Voter Purge

  • African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics are 67 percent more likely to share a common name as a white American.
  • While state officials claimed that the criminal double voters were matched by social security number and other key identifiers, in fact, they only matched first and last name. 
  • Nearly two million of the pairs of names lacked middle name matches. 
  • Voters purged are not told they are accused of voting twice.
  • The procedure, created by the Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is to send a postcard to each “duplicate” voter requiring them to re-verify their registration.
  • A large percentage are never delivered—Americans, especially renters and lower-income Americans, move often—or cards are tossed away confused for junk mail.

Voter Caging

Interstate Crosscheck is a form of Voter Caging—challenging the registration status of voters and calling into question the legality of allowing them to vote.

Sometimes it involves sending direct mail to the addressees of registered voters, and compiling a list of addressees from which the mail is returned undelivered. This list is then used to purge or challenge voters’ registrations on the grounds that the voters do not legally reside at the registered addresses.

In the United States, this practice is legal in many states. However, it has been challenged in the courts and due to its perceived racial bias, has been declared illegal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The term voter caging has also been applied to recent cases where increased requirements for proof of identity, residency, and eligibility have been added with the intent to limit the number of eligible voters.