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Another Florida election conspiracy theory

There was a lot of talk about dodgy election practices in Florida, and some argue that Al Gore might have beaten George Bush had a full recount been done. However, the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped partial recounts, and that controversy is water under the bridge.

A much-less-discussed issue in that election was purging 173,127 people deemed ineligible to vote from the rolls. The purging was contracted to a private company, ChoicePoint, who is a major aggregator of public information, including data once held by the FBI that the FBI was forced to remove from its files because there was no current investigation or criminal activity relating to it. ChoicePoint, now owned by Reed Elsevier, was used by the Obama administration to perform criminal background checks for prospective employees. ChoicePoint also owns VitalChek, the principal online outlet for ordering birth certificates.

A friend of mine, who is a nationally-recognized expert in record matching, was critical of the Florida process that he explained was biased against people who demographically tended to vote Democratic. One of the classes excluded from the rolls were convicted felons. The story goes1 the matching rules were loose and resulted in many false matches between real felons and innocent voters with similar names. Poor and minority voters were less-likely to be able to understand and challenge their disenfranchisement.

NoVote

That’s water under the bridge too, except that Florida is again in the process of purging the rolls of voters that it believes based on matching rules are convicted felons or non-citizens. According to the Daily KOS, who sent me an email about it, 2,600 voters, “the vast majority of whom are Latinos, Democrats and independents,” including one World War II Bronze Star winner who was born in Brooklyn but was deemed a non-citizen, have received letters notifying them that unless they provide proof of eligibility at a hearing before the State Supervisor of elections, they can’t vote.

My view is that the a state should not remove anybody from the voting rolls without an individualized investigation of that person and a showing before an independent judicial body that they are ineligible.

The US Department of Justice has ordered Florida to stop the voter removal which is not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

In a related story, “zombie apocalypse” is now the number-three most popular search term on Google, despite an official announcement this week from the US Centers for Disease Control that zombies do not exist. The outbreak of zombie angst may be the result of the appearance of this image of Florida Governor Rick Scott on the Internet and reports of a cannibal attack in Miami:

Rick Scott

Update:


1Journalist Greg Palast, who consulted my friend, was in the forefront of the 2000 ChoicePoint conspiracy story. It is written up in the Wikipedia article on Palast. There is also a documentary film, Florida Fights Back.

See also:

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35 Responses to Another Florida election conspiracy theory

  1. avatar
    Joe Acerbic June 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    This sort of thing totally justifies any rants about USA as a corrupt banana republic. In civilized democracies, if you’re a citizen, you can vote; no need to “register” separately to vote with this inevitable fraud that follows.

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Things might be simplified with a National ID card, but that’s off the table.

    Joe Acerbic: This sort of thing totally justifies any rants about USA as a corrupt banana republic. In civilized democracies, if you’re a citizen, you can vote; no need to “register” separately to vote with this inevitable fraud that follows.

  3. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 2, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Things might be simplified with a National ID card, but that’s off the table.

    Just look at how simple Social Security and Medicare are. And, of course, those of us on Medicare are carrying a national ID card, aren’t we? Oh my!

  4. avatar
    ASK Esq June 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    MSNBC did a piece on this and had a sadly short debate among three guests. The token conservative was columnsit S.E. Cupp, who had the gall to say that its all political, so its OK. She compared this to Eric Holder leading a drive to black churches and groups to instruct people how to properly vote. Somehow, helping eligible voters who seem likely to vote for your party vote is the same as preventing eligible voters who seem likely to vote for the other party from voting.

  5. avatar
    RetiredLawyer June 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    At least according to a story on Huff Post all 67 local voter registers are holding off doing anything more until the US DoJ, which sent a letter saying that this violates the law, decides what to do. Unfortunately, the ones that have sent letters out (not all of the did) have not sent out new letters rescinding the prior letters.

  6. avatar
    VoteFraud2012 June 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    This is very questionable to target illegal aliens voting in Florida. Obama can’t afford to see this happen. He needs and deserves the 180,000 votes there from his base.

  7. avatar
    Scientist June 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    It’s rumored that 50% of Romney voters are not actual humans, but rather corporations. And many of those corporations are based offshore.

  8. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    VoteFraud2012: This is very questionable to target illegal aliens voting in Florida. Obama can’t afford to see this happen. He needs and deserves the 180,000 votes there from his base.

    So what’s the deal with the folks got letters but are citizens and qualified to vote? How can that be?

    But, more to the point, how many of those are you comfortable with? How many disenfranchised legal voters would be okay with you?

  9. avatar
    Joe Acerbic June 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    VoteFraud2012:
    This is very questionable to target illegal aliens voting in Florida.Obama can’t afford to see this happen.He needs and deserves the 180,000 votes there from his base.

    Dear lying kook scumbag: the cowardly criminal repukes in Florida are not, repeat NOT targeting illegal aliens voting. They are targeting legal, eligible citizens because in straight, honest elections they would lose every time.

    If real voter fraud was ever prosecuted in Florida, Ann Coulter would be in jail.

  10. avatar
    Northland10 June 3, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Joe Acerbic: If real voter fraud was ever prosecuted in Florida, Ann Coulter would be in jail.

    I was going to ask where the confirmed cases of massive voter fraud were. Your response was better.

  11. avatar
    G June 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    HINT to easily mislead fool:

    Illegal aliens DON’T vote already. There are barely ANY actual instances of such theoretical “voter fraud” happening EVER.

    What we’re talking about here is REAL AMERICAN CITIZENS having their right to vote interferred with.

    Get a clue.

    VoteFraud2012: This is very questionable to target illegal aliens voting in Florida. Obama can’t afford to see this happen. He needs and deserves the 180,000 votes there from his base.

  12. avatar
    JPotter June 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Scientist:
    It’s rumored that 50% of Romney voters are not actual humans, but rather corporations.And many of those corporations are based offshore.

    Corporations are people, too, my friend. Corporations are people too.

    Just like unicorns.

    Now, please enter in to collective bargaining with our feelings division in order to determine appropriate restitution. We’ll consider all tender offers.

  13. avatar
    JPotter June 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    VoteFraud2012:
    This is very questionable to target illegal aliens voting in Florida.Obama can’t afford to see this happen.He needs and deserves the 180,000 votes there from his base.

    I can’t parse this message. He’s opposed to investigating voting by illegal aliens? Obama deserves 180,000 votes from his base … of illegal aliens?

    How do illegal aliens supposedly vote? Via identity theft? Wouldn’t they need the corporation of the election board to pull that off en masse .. ?

  14. avatar
    Joe Acerbic June 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    JPotter: I can’t parse this message. He’s opposed to investigating voting by illegal aliens? Obama deserves 180,000 votes from his base … of illegal aliens?

    I assume it’s what passes for sarcasm in lying repuke scumbag circles. Not recognizing it as such is understandable.

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    A lady at lunch today said “I’m a corporation.” So I guess the converse is true also.

    JPotter: Corporations are people, too, my friend. Corporations are people too.

  16. avatar
    JPotter June 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Joe Acerbic: I assume it’s what passes for sarcasm in lying repuke scumbag circles. Not recognizing it as such is understandable.

    Thanks for clearing that up!

    Goes back to that pondering of why there aren’t Red versions of Stewart and Colbert. How does parody parody reality? Just comes off as awkward nonsense. Successful spoof, parody requires a grasp of reality as a starting point.

  17. avatar
    Scientist June 4, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    JPotter: Corporations are people, too, my friend. Corporations are people too.

    If that is so, then I should be able to marry one. Or at least take one out on a date. “Hey, Cisco, are you free on Friday?”

  18. avatar
    JPotter June 4, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Scientist: If that is so, then I should be able to marry one. Or at least take one out on a date.“Hey, Cisco, are you free on Friday?”

    Buy some stock and see where it goes. As for dating, that’s what bonds, options, and derivatives are for …. choose what form based on your level of interest and intent. Your intentions are honorable, aren’t they? ;)

  19. avatar
    Thomas Brown June 4, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    A lady at lunch today said “I’m a corporation.” So I guess the converse is true also.

    My favorite quote on this so far is Bill Moyers': “I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

  20. avatar
    JPotter June 4, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Thomas Brown: My favorite quote on this so far is Bill Moyers’: “I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

    Well, according to the Texas SOS office, provisions have been made for just such an occurrence. Corporations can be executed, commit suicide, as well as expiring naturally (heh).

    It looks like the closest thing to an execution would be an involuntary dissolution …. surely it’s happened at least once, but I can’t find a record of one (not that I’ve looked past the to 5 search results…)

    Wait, what’s this??? Coporations can be “reinstated”? Oh, no, corporate zombies! zombies! zombies! real corporate zombies!

    Conclusion: until a person has been successful revivified, corporations are superior to people. Harder to kill anyway.

    ______________________

    Lots of fun search results for “corporate zombies”! Check it out! Look up President Zod while you’re at it!

  21. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Choicepoint is a middleman. They contract out to local private investigators to actually look up the records. I used to be one of the PI’s who did work contracted through Choicepoint as well as other various clients. Choicepoint was, by far, our biggest client.

    Most of the information that they handle is public information. They are in the habit of ordering highly sensitive drivers license records though (which are protected, and not just anyone can ask for that information. A person needs to sign off before a search of said records is allowed, at least under Arizona law).

    Still, Choicepoint is in the business of acquiring data which can be used for many purposes and that they are getting involved in voting records and purging is not surprising at all.

  22. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    bgansel9: Still, Choicepoint is in the business of acquiring data which can be used for many purposes and that they are getting involved in voting records and purging is not surprising at all.

    In your experience what information would they have access to that would allow them (or a client) to flag Joe Smith in Miami (or Phoenix) as a non-citizen as opposed to the Joe Smith in Sarasota (or Mesa)?

  23. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Just to be clear, my mention of ChoicePoint was in relation to the 2000 election. I don’t know who is doing 2012. My understanding is that ChoicePoint just matched voter registrations against their existing databases and did not do any individual investigations.

    CarlOrcas: In your experience what information would they have access to that would allow them (or a client) to flag Joe Smith in Miami (or Phoenix) as a non-citizen as opposed to the Joe Smith in Sarasota (or Mesa)?

  24. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    I never investigated citizenship, but, we had access to criminal records that sometimes contained written notations of green card status and non-citizenship. The lack of a social security number or multiple social security numbers could also be an indicator. They are not definitive of course, (time being a factor, a green card status from records 6 years ago in a 7 year search does not define a person as a non-citizen today). We determined information not only by the input data on the actual arrest reports, but also all notations regarding the cases. It’s a sleuthing thing, we looked for information in any way it was available.

    eta: I should be clear, my position was not only in researching state and local records, but at the federal level as well.

  25. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I wrote the 2000 Florida purge part of the story from memory. I didn’t realize how much information is available online. If you are interested in the issue, please see the references added in a footnote at the end of the article. My apologies for not digging deeper at the outset.

  26. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    Just to be clear, my mention of ChoicePointwas in relation to the 2000 election. I don’t know who is doing 2012. My understanding is that ChoicePoint just matched voter registrations against their existing databases and did not do any individual investigations.

    I understand. I’m just stating that I’ve worked with Choicepoint contracts regarding criminal and civil records. I never did any citizenship searches, but as I explained above to CarlOrcas, we did have access to records that could indicate such.

  27. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    CarlOrcas: In your experience what information would they have access to that would allow them (or a client) to flag Joe Smith in Miami (or Phoenix) as a non-citizen as opposed to the Joe Smith in Sarasota (or Mesa)?

    Carl, I didn’t address the second part of your post. Choicepoint furnishes a birthdate on all subjects, so, if the birthdate didn’t match, we would have discounted a non-matching birth date record as not pertaining to the subject.

  28. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Articles I have read indicate that the 2000 matching wasn’t exact (they accepted name variations including nicknames and first-last name switches), but that’s not the point. Lots of people have common names (that’s why they’re common names!) and in a large database, one the size of voters in Florida, there will be multiple individuals with the same first name, last name and date of birth.

    When I was doing duplication studies of the Tennessee Immunization registry, I listed records that had the same first, last and DOB. Every day of the year, there were several multiples, even though looking at additional information made it clear they weren’t the same person.

    Record matching always has a margin of error. In some cases there is not much harm done when the occasional false positive happens (say a catalog mailer is trying to prevent sending multiple catalogs). However, when someone’s life is on the line (say with medical records) or their rights as a citizen to vote are at stake, I’m not willing to accept good guesses. In 2000, about 173,000 people were purged from the rolls. Even if the 99.9% accuracy figure is true (and based in my considerable expertise in records matching of large databases there’s no chance that number is real), that still means that .1% or 173 people were purged in error. To be really confident of a match, some fourth piece of matching information is needed (like an address, a SSN or a phone number).

    For the mathematically inclined, I commend the works of Fellegi and Sunter.

    http://www.census.gov/srd/papers/pdf/rr91-9.pdf

    bgansel9: Carl, I didn’t address the second part of your post. Choicepoint furnishes a birthdate on all subjects, so, if the birthdate didn’t match, we would have discounted a non-matching birth date record as not pertaining to the subject

  29. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Record matching always has a margin of error.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    We did searches using name variations as well. Usually the birth date would preclude a subject being considered for the records search, but, while I have never encountered two individuals with the same birth date that I know of, I’m sure it’s happened on occasion. Hispanic individuals especially are difficult to research. Many hispanics share the same names and I had the privilege (that’s snark) of having to eliminate many records based on the indicators that would prove they were not our subject.

    As I stated above, we did use SSN’s as well. Addresses are usually not a great indicator as subjects have a tendency to move around. A matching address would be indicative, but, a different address would not preclude a person from being included in the result.

  30. avatar
    Joe Acerbic June 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    The whole idea with these fraudulent purges is to be as sloppy and nonselective as possible to give a statistical advantage to the fraudulent repuke party.

    The 2000 “felon” purge targeted African-Americans who mostly vote for Democrats. Because they have less variation in last names than Caucasians, deleting all voters whose name somewhat resembles the name of an African-American felon gets rid of maybe 10 votes for Democrats where doing the same with the name of Caucasian felon eliminates only 2 repuke votes.

    This “alien” purge is even more clever. They just get a list of mostly Hispanic names and delete all voters with somewhat similar names. No need to even program the exceptions for Smith and Jones.

  31. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Joe Acerbic: This “alien” purge is even more clever. They just get a list of mostly Hispanic names and delete all voters with somewhat similar names. No need to even program the exceptions for Smith and Jones.

    Absolutely. I’m sure that there is a name for someone named Juan Ortiz (just using as an example, it’s a name I encountered constantly) on that list and there are many people who share that name, therefore in trying to eliminate ONE Juan Ortiz, they would be purging many others.

  32. avatar
    Joe Acerbic June 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    bgansel9: therefore in trying to eliminate ONE Juan Ortiz, they would be purging many others.

    They’ll also use it as an excuse to purge every Joao Ortiz, John Ortiz, Joe Ortiz etc. etc.

  33. avatar
    bgansel9 June 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Joe Acerbic: They’ll also use it as an excuse to purge every Joao Ortiz, John Ortiz, Joe Ortiz etc. etc.

    Those other names would have been tossed out of my searches when I was doing background checks. But, there are many names where close variations are included.

  34. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Just to be clear, my mention of ChoicePoint was in relation to the 2000 election. I don’t know who is doing 2012. My understanding is that ChoicePoint just matched voter registrations against their existing databases and did not do any individual investigations.

    I understand. I was just interested in what bganse19 might know about just how they gathered and matched information.

    Frankly I can’t think of a public data base that contains good information on citizenship, can you?

  35. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    bgansel9: Carl, I didn’t address the second part of your post. Choicepoint furnishes a birthdate on all subjects, so, if the birthdate didn’t match, we would have discounted a non-matching birth date record as not pertaining to the subject.

    That makes sense since the DOB plays a critical role in criminal and credit records.

    As I mentioned to Doc, I can think of a source of information that includes citizenship information and particularly one that includes the person’s DOB.