When Donald Trump claimed, “the election’s going to be rigged,” he wasn’t entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of “voting many, many times.” What’s far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.
The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.
Like all weapons of vote suppression, Crosscheck is a response to the imaginary menace of mass voter fraud. In the mid-2000s, after the Florida-recount debacle, the Bush administration launched a five-year investigation into the allegedly rampant crime but found scant evidence of wrongdoing. Still, the GOP has perpetuated the myth in every national election since. Recently, North Carolina Board of Elections chief Kim Strach testified to her legislature that 35,750 voters are “registered in North Carolina and another state and voted in both in the 2012 general election.” [Editor’s note: This quote was taken from the power point that accompanied Strach’s testimony. In a subsequent letter, she informed us that during her presentation she “stressed that we were not suggesting that 35,750 voters had committed any type of fraud. My testimony was that the data we received from the Crosscheck Program showed that in the 2012 general election, there were 35,750 people who voted in North Carolina whose first and last names and dates of birth matched persons who voted in the same election in another state.”] Yet despite hiring an ex-FBI agent to lead the hunt, the state has charged exactly zero double voters from the Crosscheck list. Nevertheless, tens of thousands face the loss of their ability to vote – all for the sake of preventing a crime that rarely happens. So far, Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects, yet we found no more than four perpetrators who have been charged with double voting or deliberate double registration.
The theory seems plausible – if you want to confront the imaginary threat of voter fraud, of course – but all the bugs just happen to mean anyone with a “foreign” name is more likely to be struck off.
This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.”