Greg Palast: Black servicemen removed from voting rolls


Richard Moore

Subject: Massacre of the Buffalo Soldiers
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2006 04:23:40 -0400
From: Greg Palast <•••@••.•••>

African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List
by Greg Palast
As reported for Democracy Now!

Palast, who first reported this story for BBC Television Newsnight (UK) and 
Democracy Now! (USA), is author of the New York Times bestseller, 

The Republican National Committee has a special offer for African-American 
soldiers:  Go to Baghdad, lose your vote.

A confidential campaign directed by GOP party chiefs in October 2004 sought to 
challenge the ballots of tens of thousands of voters in the last presidential 
election, virtually all of them cast by residents of Black-majority precincts.

Files from the secret vote-blocking campaign were obtained by BBC Television 
Newsnight, London.  They were attached to emails accidentally sent by Republican
operatives to a non-party website.

One group of voters wrongly identified by the Republicans as registering to vote
from false addresses:  servicemen and women sent overseas.


For Greg Palast's discussion with broadcaster Amy Goodman on the Black soldier 
purge of 2004, go to 


Here's how the scheme worked:  The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes 
marked, ³Do not forward², to be returned to the sender. These letters were 
mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home 
addresses.  The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as 

The lists of soldiers of "undeliverable" letters were transmitted from state 
headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could 
then challenge the voters' registration and thereby prevent their absentee 
ballot being counted.

One target list was comprised exclusively of voters registered at the 
Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station. Jacksonville is third largest naval 
installation in the US, best known as home of the Blue Angels fighting 

[See this scrub sheet at 

Our team contacted the homes of several on the caging list, such as Randall 
Prausa, a serviceman, whose wife said he had been ordered overseas.

A soldier returning home in time to vote in November 2004 could also be 
challenged on the basis of the returned envelope.  Soldiers challenged would be 
required to vote by "provisional" ballot.

Over one million provisional ballots cast in the 2004 race were never counted; 
over half a million absentee ballots were also rejected. The extraordinary rise 
in the number of rejected ballots was the result of the widespread multi-state 
voter challenge campaign by the Republican Party.  The operation, of which the 
purge of Black soldiers was a small part, was the first mass challenge to voting
America had seen in two decades.

The BBC obtained several dozen confidential emails sent by the Republican's  
national Research Director and Deputy Communications chief, Tim Griffin to GOP 
Florida campaign chairman Brett Doster and other party leaders. Attached were 
spreadsheets marked, "Caging.xls."  Each of these contained several hundred to a
few thousand voters and their addresses.

A check of the demographics of the addresses on the "caging lists," as the GOP 
leaders called them indicated that most were in African-American majority zip 

Ion Sanco, the non-partisan elections supervisor of Leon County (Tallahassee) 
when shown the lists by this reporter said: ³The only thing I can think of  - 
African American voters listed like this ­ these might be individuals that will 
be challenged if they attempted to vote on Election Day.²

These GOP caging lists were obtained by the same BBC team that first exposed the
wrongful purge of African-American "felon" voters in 2000 by then-Secretary of 
State Katherine Harris.  Eliminating the voting rights of those voters -- 94,000
were targeted -- likely caused Al Gore's defeat in that race.

The Republican National Committee in Washington refused our several requests to 
respond to the BBC discovery.  However, in Tallahassee, the Florida Bush 
campaign's spokespeople offered several explanations for the list.

Joseph Agostini, speaking for the GOP, suggested the lists were of potential 
donors to the Bush campaign. Oddly, the supposed donor list included residents 
of the Sulzbacher Center a shelter for homeless families.

Another spokesperson for the Bush campaign, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, ultimately 
changed the official response, acknowledging that these were voters, "we mailed 
to, where the letter came back ­ bad addresses.²

The party has refused to say why it would mark soldiers as having "bad 
addresses" subject to challenge when they had been assigned abroad.

The apparent challenge campaign was not inexpensive.  The GOP mailed the letters
first class, at a total cost likely exceeding millions of dollars, so that the 
addresses would be returned to "cage" workers.

³This is not a challenge list," insisted the Republican spokesmistress. However,
she modified that assertion by adding, ³That¹s not what it¹s set up to be.²

Setting up such a challenge list would be a crime under federal law.  The Voting
Rights Act of 1965 outlaws mass challenges of voters where race is a factor in 
choosing the targeted group.

While the party insisted the lists were not created for the purpose to challenge
Black voters, the GOP ultimately offered no other explanation for the mailings.
However, Tucker Fletcher asserted Republicans could still employ the list to 
deny ballots to those they considered suspect voters.  When asked if Republicans
would use the list to block voters, Tucker Fletcher replied, ³Where it¹s stated 
in the law, yeah.²

It is not possible at this time to determine how many on the potential blacklist
were ultimately challenged and lost their vote.  Soldiers sending in their 
ballot from abroad would not know their vote was lost because of a challenge.


For the full story of caging lists and voter purges of 2004, plus the documents,
read Greg Palast's New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE:  Who's Afraid of 
Osama Wolf?

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