Jim Crow Returns
Organisation: Al Jazeera America (United States)
Publication Date: 12/30/2014
DescriptionCategory 9: General Excellence (Jurors' Choice) A six-month, two-part investigation by Al Jazeera America found that millions of voters, disproportionately minority, could have their names purged from voter rolls because of a computer program to look for voters who illegally voted twice in the same election in two different states. The first part, “Jim Crow Returns,” investigated the methodology and operation of the program, Interstate Crosscheck, which is used by elections officials. According to Crosscheck, nearly 7 million people across 28 states are possible “double voters.” But the investigation, by a team of researchers and data analysts led by reporter Greg Palast, found that their list was nothing more than a compendium of common names. Program officials claimed that those who are removed as double voters were matched using social security numbers and other positive identifiers. After sending in Freedom of Information Act requests to about two dozen of the participating states, Al Jazeera obtained the Interstate lists from Georgia, Virginia and Washington, totaling just over 2 million names. An analysis of the records showed that Crosscheck used just first and last name in determining a match, and ignored middle initial mismatches and Jr/Sr differences. Other matches were simply of people who were registered to vote in one state, and then moved to another, such as students who moved to a college in a different state. Further scrutiny found that the program disproportionately targets minorities — especially African Americans — because of the commonality of minority surnames. One in 7 African Americans, 1 in 8 Asian Americans and 1 in 8 Hispanics are at risk of having their names of being scrubbed from voter rolls. Palast tracked down some of the voters whose names appeared on the list, but every one of them said they’d never voted in more than one state. One, Joseph Naylor, a resident of a senior center in Atlanta, filed a sworn and witnessed affidavit that he had not voted in two states in order to save his vote. He was one of 10 suspected double voters tagged by Crosscheck at that old age home. The second part of the story, “Voting rights groups challenge electoral purges,” featured on-the-ground reporting from North Carolina. Based on Al Jazeera America’s investigation, the state chapter of the NAACP sent a legal letter to the State Board of Elections warning about Crosscheck-related electoral purges. In Georgia, where participation in Crosscheck was secret, an angry State Rep. Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, has come out strongly against the “nefarious” program. Part one was accompanied by a multimedia project featuring a searchable list of people whose names appear on the Virginia and Georgia Crosscheck lists. Users could also look up common names, drawn from the U.S. Census’s list of 1000 most common surnames, and see the likely ethnicities of those names. After the midterm election, Al Jazeera America published a third, follow-up story, “Voter purges alter US political map,” which showed that Crosscheck-style voter purges could have easily accounted for Republican victories in at least two Senate races, in North Carolina, where Thom Tillis won over the incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan by a mere 48,511 votes, and in Colorado, where Cory Gardner forced out incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and which Crosscheck lists revealed that 300,842 of that state’s voters were subject to being purged from the rolls. Since the stories were published, several groups have stated their intentions to take action — advocacy and legal. The legal group Asian Americans Advancing Justice released an advisory before voting day to raise awareness of possible problems at the ballot box and set up a multilingual hotline to assist voters. They also plan to take legal action. As mentioned, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP sent a letter to the State Board of Elections about the purges, and the activist group Color of Change plans a large-scale campaign based on the Al Jazeera America investigation.
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