Wednesday, July 05, 2006

1983, not 1984

Today, Spot wants to swim in the refreshing waters of due process as it applies to voting rights. And he won’t even touch on the controversy surrounding the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, currently bottled up by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Relax, boys and girls, this post is unencumbered with ponderous citations, well mostly. Consider it food for thought, to mix a metaphor. (Spot learned how to do that from Katie.)

The country watched helplessly as election irregularities in Florida affected the outcome of the presidential election in 2000. Then we watched again, as shenanigans in Ohio in 2004 cast that presidential election into doubt for a lot of people, including Robert Kennedy, Jr. as he wrote persuasively in this Rolling Stone article.

Spotty, there must be something we can do! Yes, grasshopper, there may well be. One of the biggest problems in both Florida and Ohio was the scrubbing of voter rolls to remove “ineligible” voters. As it turned out, of course, a lot of the people purged from voter rolls were properly registered and were eligible to vote. Interestingly enough, according to Greg Palast, there is evidence that the same thing went on in the recent presidential election in Mexico. And guess what? The same U.S. company, Choice Point, is involved as the scrubber.

Apparently, the data miner Check Point acts as judge, jury, and executioner of the voter’s registration. The first the voters hears about it is the day of the election, when there is no remedy, or at most the remedy of a provisional ballot, which were never counted in Ohio, according to the Rolling Stone article linked to above.

But Spotty, that’s so unfair; it sounds like a lack of . . . of . . . . Due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the US constitution? Yes it does, grasshopper. When a voter who registered to vote in a timely manner is deprived of that right – a very important civil right, by the way - without notice, a hearing, or any opportunity to present evidence in support of the registration, there is a clear lack of fundamental due process.

Can these people sue somebody Spotty? Well you surely would think they could. For example, the Secretaries of State of Florida and Ohio are good candidates to be defendants in a suit to suspend the scrubbing activity unless and until the system for doing so is brought into compliance with fundamental standards of due process. One that didn’t take the data from a private company and just accept it as gospel.

Speaking of the private company, Check Point, Spotty says it ought to be in somebody’s sights as a defendant in a section 1983 action. For the uninitiated, that’s 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, which reads as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

Sounds like Check Point, doesn’t it? There are undoubtedly thousands of Florida and Ohio disenfranchised citizens would be happy to be part of a group of plaintiffs. All we need is a good public-interest law firm and off we go!


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