Washblog

Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Public Distrust Campaign

[NOTE: I neglected discussion of federal law in this post. See David Goldstein's latest on Horsesass EFF Initiative Illegal... And they know it -- and Zappini's comments attached to this post -- for info on applicable federal law -- as well as further insight. Also see Andrew's post on NPI -- clarifying the issue of inactivating -- vs voiding -- voter registrations.]

Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) has announced that it plans to file an initiative requiring all registered voters to re-register.  It claims our voter rolls will never be clean without such a step.

This leads us to a natural question: Just how "dirty" are our voter rolls?  Another question that the statements and behavior of EFF lead us to is: Just how dirty are EFF's tactics?  Before considering these two questions, I think it's worthwhile to contemplate briefly, in something like a "moment of silence" dedicated to paying respect to what is at stake here for the voters of Washington State, the two quotes that appear below:

From Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 29A.04.205: State Policy:

It is the policy of the state of Washington to encourage every eligible person to register to vote and to participate fully in all elections, and to protect the integrity of the electoral process by providing equal access to the process while guarding against discrimination and fraud. The election registration laws and the voting laws of the state of Washington must be administered without discrimination based upon race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or political affiliation.

From the statement of a homeless person, protesting the Republican voter disenfranchisement campaign, as reported on Washblog.typepad.com in November, 2005:

This challenge is now making me admit publicly that because of a condition I have I live in a car, have lost my job and my wife, and been forced to file for bankruptcy. I've also lost my home, which was 3 blocks away from the UPS store. Now I've had to admit all of this, and my 11-year-old daughter has to see this all go down publicly.

These laws were meant to protect the public from fraud, not persecute the homeless. I've tried to do the best I could to give King County Elections the most accurate address possible. Making these challenges so close to the election speaks badly about the Republican Party.

What Ms. Sotelo doesn't know is that I have a key to the UPS store, and I sleep there when it's cold outside - the owner knows me. They don't have any proof that I wasn't doing this, and the burden of proof is with Ms. Sotelo - the law says that she has to know that I don't live there, and she didn't do her due diligence. I ask the members of the Republican party to ask themselves if this is how they want their party to act.

Washington State has new laws on the books, as of January, designed to improve our voter registration system.  We've also got a new voter file, released just this month, a compact disk containing the registration records on all the voters in all 39 counties of the state - approximately 3.8 million of us.  It's paid for by federal funds and required under the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The combined voter file is a huge step forward.  It makes it possible for the state to void out duplicate registrations and to remove felons and deceased voters from the voter rolls in one file, without counties having to compare the information in separate databases.

But The Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) isn't satisfied, and isn't ready to let this new system -- or our new election laws -- prove themselves.  EFF's still unswayed in its determination to activate public outrage against what it characterizes -- against all evidence -- as a widespread pattern of ineptitude and corruption in our voting system.

Its new initiative, which would require re-registration of all voters, has not been filed yet and I learned from a call to the Secretary of State's office that it may be unavailable for public review - at at least from that site - for up to 25 days after it is filed, during the review by the Code Reviser and then by the filing organization.  But we can get the probable gist of what that initiative will say from reading EFF's Recommendations to the Legislature Regarding the 2004 Election, last updated 1/25/06.  In this document, the rationale given for requiring a re-registration of all voters in the state is as follows:

Require all currently registered voters to reregister by December 31, 2005. This is necessary in order to clean up the voter rolls and to comply with the January 1, 2006, requirement that the voter file contain the driver's license number or the last four digits of the Social Security Number.

This paragraph contains a misrepresentation of the relevant regulation, RCW 29A.08.010: Information required for voter registration, which states the following:  "As used in this chapter: `Information required for voter registration' means the minimum information provided on a voter registration application that is required by the county auditor in order to place a voter registration applicant on the voter registration rolls."

What this regulation requires is not, as the EFF document declares, "that the voter file contain the driver's license number or the last four digits of the Social Security Number." There is, indeed, no requirement in that regulation that the voter file must contain given information for all voters.  The requirement under 29A.08.010 instead, is that the county auditor has an obligation to require certain information at the time he or she places a voter on the rolls

.

Sound like quibbling? Well, it's a relevant distinction. It gets to heart of what I see as the central unacknowledged demand that EFF is making.

With its invented "January 1, 2006, requirement that the voter file contain the driver's license number...." EFF implies that Washington State's new law requires a de-novo overhauled voter file.  It doesn't.   EFF wants a requirement for a de-novo overhauled voter file which doesn't exist.  And so EFF declares that it exists.

It is clear that state law requires maintenance but not overhaul of our voter file, as evident from RCW 29A.08.605, Registration list maintenance.  The requirement under this section that there must be a thorough review every two years that must be "be nondiscriminatory in its application" is just one more expression of the intent of our state law, to facilitate and encourage voting - and be fair about it.  This intent would likely be violated under the EFF initiative, as voter challenges have historically been shown to disproportionately disenfranchise the poor - people, after all, who would find it more difficult to take time from work, etc. to meet new requirements.

So EFF is asking the people of Washington State to shoulder a huge taxpayer-funded expenditure and outlay of citizen and government official time.  More paper shuffling, more fingers keying in routines and data, all of us standing line and making calls, and disappointed voters at the precincts on voting day. And it's hiding its demand behind a false assertion -- that these burdens, expenses, and impositions are already required under the law.

EFF claims they're doing this because Washington's 2004 election was rigged.

Their claim is an exact reversal of the truth. The recounts of the 2004 election and the subsequent legal decision, media coverage, and blogger and partisan investigation provide compelling evidence that our elections are relatively clean here in WA.  EFF's campaign is part of the effort to turn that evidence around and make it prove the opposite.   District Judge John Bridges, chosen by the Republicans because he was known to be conservative and had previously overturned an election result, dismissed Republican fraud allegations with prejudice, the strongest dismissal possible.   Bridges noted only that there was irregularity in the election - "as there appears to be in every election."

Why does the Evergreen Freedom Foundation pour probably hundreds of thousands of dollars - the talents and time of its staff members and of dedicated citizen volunteers, into the project of convincing the voters of Washington State, despite all evidence to the contrary, that our government and our citizens cannot be trusted?   Why, in its rhetoric, does it cherry-pick the words from Judge Bridge's decision, quoting his criticism of a culture of inertia and selfishness among the workers of King County's election department, but never quoting his conclusion that, basically, the Republicans' charges of fraud and unusual ineptitude were full of hooey?

If this initiative is successful, we will see an undue burden placed upon poor and homeless voters.  We will likely see fewer Democratic votes in our elections.  My hope is that, if the voters of Washington State are convinced by the false arguments of EFF and its cohorts to approve it, the equal access clause in RCW 29A04.25, which is quoted at the beginning of this post, and the requirement for non-discriminatory list maintenance at RCW 29A.08.605, will be sufficient protection against its implementation.  It would be much more preferable, however, if the EFF's campaign to sow distrust among the voters of Washington State could be discredited and debunked. Maybe then we'd have some healing of the public trust here in the beautiful State of Washington.

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Here's a link to the study behind the policy:

http://www.effwa.org/pdfs/MisplacedTrust.pdf

Here's the way this works: EFF is a think-tank. They employ intelligent people with a passion for incisive analysis. Their analysts lay the intellectual groundwork for legal challenges and policies that liberals have to scramble to counter.

Some time ago former Sen. Bill Bradley suggested that we need our own network of liberal think-tanks. I think he was right.

by PCO3318 on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 02:42:24 PM PST

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This issue keeps coming back through different Republican channels. Pam Roach, State Senator from the 31st LD, sponsored SB 6499 last year. The bill contained the same voter re-registration proposal.

It was, and remains, a tactic to purge Washington's voter rolls of poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democrat. It is no less crass than Tom DeLay's illegal manipulation of Texas congressional districts.

I wrote a piece on how SB 6499 was and is a concern for Asian and minority voters here in Washblog, and followed up on it with an in person meeting with the bill sponsor, Pam Roach. she pronounced it DOA in the Washington legislature, knowing the Evergreen foundation was formulating an initiave plan.

It will be up to all progressive groups, the Democratic party, and advocacy groups to coordinate a plan to defeat this initiative.

The first step is to name it in the public eye for what it is: restricting voting rights in Washington State. That is the frame that should be used.

The Republicans will try and call this election and voting reform, but they know full well just how cynical their plan is. We will have to trumpet the truth about this loud and clear, defying their disinformation tactics.

by Andrew Tsao on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 03:41:31 PM PST

* 2 5.00 2 *


NVRA (1993) would moot this initiative.  The section Sec. 1973gg-6 Requirements with respect to administration of voter registration clearly spells out how and why voters can be removed from a voter registration database.  "Just because" isn't listed as an option.

Evergreen Freedom Foundation is primarily concerned with voter fraud.  As always, that's a valid concern.   However, requiring every voter to reregister is not a solution to any known problem.

by zappini on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 04:57:36 PM PST

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Hi Noemie-

I shot off my mouth before I got the facts straight.  (A friend corrected me offline.)

The article states

"The initiative would make all voter registrations inactive until people proved their citizenship and reregistered."

"Inactive" has a very specific meaning.  It's a flag in the database that would require that voter to be re-verified.  In no way is the voter prevented from voting, or disenfranchised.

I worked as a poll-worker last year.  A significant number of voters had a flag next to their entry in the voter roll book noting that they had to update their registration.  I gave the person a new registration card and asked them to update things.  That checkbox may have said "inactive", I don't recall.  (My training materials are at home.)

It was easy for me to assume the EFF is again proposing reregistering every voter.  I can't find the text of the initiative.  I'll hold off final judgement until then.

Cheers, Jason

by zappini on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 06:37:06 PM PST

* 7 5.00 1 *


  • Red flag -- means by noemie maxwell, 02/23/2006 08:17:02 AM PST (5.00 / 1)
    • Meaning by zappini, 02/23/2006 08:39:01 AM PST (5.00 / 1)
It's pretty funny that they've got to get signatures of registered voters to get an initiative on the ballot implying those signatures are invalid.  I guess I'm not too surprised.  

PortDork

by PortDork on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 05:54:26 PM PST

* 6 none 0 *


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