The Bush campaign is planning an Election Day effort to disrupt ballot casting by blacks by challenging voters whose names are on a so-called ‘‘caging list,’’ according to a British news report.
Citing an internal Republican e-mail with the subject line ‘‘caging,’’ the BBC reported Tuesday that Republicans have a list of 1,886 names and addresses of voters in largely black and traditionally Democratic areas of Jacksonville. Republican officials contend that the list merely records returned mail from fundraising solicitations or letters sent to newly registered voters in Duval County, ostensibly to verify their addresses.
‘‘This list was not compiled to challenge voters at the polls and it will not be used for that purpose,’’ said Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a senior adviser to the Florida GOP. But black leaders on Wednesday called the list another ‘‘shameful’’ Republican effort to keep blacks from voting.
‘‘This is just another tactic they’re using to frustrate and discourage black voters in Florida,’’ said Jacksonville minister Lee Harris. ‘‘It’s unfortunate they’re resorting to these tricks against African American voters and the entire community.’’
Black leaders on Wednesday met with election officials, who assured them they did not know of the GOP list. ‘‘It’s been 40 years since the Civil Rights Act and blacks in this country are still struggling for the basic right to vote,’’ said US Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat whose district includes Jacksonville and who attended the meeting.
‘‘These people will do whatever it takes to win an election. I don’t care who you are — Republican, Democrat or what — don’t you want things in Florida to be fair and square, for once?’’.
Activists say the efforts to keep blacks from the polls in Duval County go back at least four years to the 2000 election when 27,000 ballots here —largely cast by blacks — were discounted by election officials. In all, more than 175,000 ballots throughout the state where thrown out because of technicalities.
Many of the ballots were cast by minority and low-income voters who usually vote Democratic, activists say. This year, minority activists sued after Duval County officials refused to open early-voting sites in black communities instead forcing African Americans to drive several miles to a white area to vote. The officials later backed down and opened more polling sites. In a letter sent to the BBC, Fletcher said ‘‘the list was a listing of returned mail that came from a mailing that the Republican National Committee sent to new registrants’’ in Duval County ‘‘encouraging newly registered Republicans, Democrats and independents to vote Republican.’’
The letter also referred to ‘‘caging’’ as ‘‘a commonly used term in the political process by which someone opens a large amount of mail and logs it into a database.’’ But many activists believe the list of voters with changed addresses was being amassed for use in a campaign to challenge low-income voters.
The act of challenging voters at polling sites can be used to slow down the voting process, causing chaos on Election Day and discouraging voters from voting, they said. The list was obtained by the BBC thanks to the publishers of a satirical Web site, georgewbush.org, that received the list as an e-mail attachment mistakenly sent by a Republican Party researcher. The researcher intended to send the list to a Bush campaign staffer through the campaign’s e-mail server at georgewbush.com. The creator of georgewbush.org, John Wooden, a NY Web site designer, said he sent the voter list to the reporter prior to posting it. — LAT-WP