Court Rules RNC Can’t Suppress Voters

By Project Vote March 9, 2012
Judges Reject RNC Request to Void Agreement Over Voter Caging and Other Voter Suppression Activities
(Washington, DC) – “If the RNC does not hope to engage in conduct that would violate the Decree, it is puzzling that the RNC is pursuing vacatur so vigorously,” Judge Joseph Greenaway wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. He noted that the party sought to escape the decree at a critical moment, in time for the upcoming election cycle.
Today Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, issued the following statement in response:

“As the panel said in its unanimous opinion, the decree the RNC sought to vacate “has as its central purpose preventing the intimidation and suppression of minority voters.” This decree—originally entered in 1982 and modified in 1987—has helped constrain partisan efforts to suppress the vote for 30 years. In filing this motion, the RNC sought to openly resume voter challenge and intimidation efforts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit properly rejected the party’s request. 

As we enter another historic election year, it is important that no party or organization engage in voter suppression and intimidation tactics. Voter caging—the practice of sending direct mail to voters for the purposes of compiling challenge lists—is a technique that has historically been used to deter thousands of Americans—largely low-income and minority citizens—from voting. 
In the original case that resulted in this consent decree, the RNC, in 1981, mailed non-forwardable postcards to predominately Hispanic and African-American districts in New Jersey; the 45,000 cards that were returned were then used to create a “caging list” of voters for the GOP to challenge at the polls. By doing this, the RNC tried to skirt federal law that sets up a procedure to ensure that voter registrations are not erroneously cancelled on a mistaken belief that the voter has moved. 

The Democratic National Committee sued in DNC v. RNC, and in the resulting consent decree the RNC agreed not to engage in these and similar practices “where the purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting.” 

Since that time, however, while the national committee was officially prohibited from cooperating in such activities, efforts by state GOP parties have repeatedly shown that the party’s national agenda of minority voter suppression remains unchanged. In the 2004 presidential election, for example, state Republican parties staged the most egregious and large-scale voter caging program to date, with caging operations that disproportionately targeted minorities in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. Between 2004 and 2006, partisans challenged more than 77,000 American voters in targeted communities. E-mails between state party employees and the RNC suggested close cooperation between the national organization and state parties. In 2008, only a strong public backlash and rapid response in courts of law prevented the unfounded mass challenges to voters that marred the 2004 election. 

Proponents of voter caging claim it is necessary to protect against so-called “voter fraud.” Yesterday’s ruling is a strong rebuke to those claims, as the court noted “the rarity of in-person voting fraud,” and pointed out that “the RNC has not demonstrated that any ineligible voter registered by a non-party organization has ever actually cast a vote.” 

Given the GOP’s long (and recent) history of voter caging, it is imperative that the consent decree remain in effect, and that the RNC not be allowed further license to target minority voters.”

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