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What is Terri Land (R) doing now?

by: matt

Thu Jul 13, 2006 at 12:58:39 PM EDT

Did you get a postcard this week from the state Bureau of Elections? I did. (two actually - one addressed to me and one addressed to some guy who apparently used to live here) Here's what it looks like:

I threw the card addressed to me away and stuck the other one on the side of the mailbox and didn't give it any more thought - until this morning, when I got this in my inbox from my ex-boss Mark Grebner:
Matt -

Have you just received a postcard (see above) from Terry, babbling about her new website, Michigan.gov/vote? No actual content to the card, and no plausible reason for mailing it, unless she's trying to invoke MCL 168.509, which involves "reliable information" that a voter has moved, which requires the entire process be completed at least 90 days before the November election, or by August 10.

If you get one, notice the barcode above the address. It's not a postal code, but your QVF ID#, apparently printed to make it easy to process the postcards returned by the USPS. Also notice the "Return Service Requested" endorsement, which means that none of them will be forwarded - they're automatically returned to the Secretary of State, with whatever information the Post Office has.

I don't know the scope of the mailing yet, but everybody I've asked in the Lansing area has reported receiving it. There's no legal authority for sending them out, and lots of legal hoops to jump through before anybody could be removed from the voter rolls, but it looks exactly like some GOP-inspired scheme. Absolutely no mention of the postcard mailing on the SOS website, and no mention in any newspaper, as far as I can see. And I'm sure it's not in her budget. If it's statewide to the entire QVF - which is possible, but unknown - the cost would have been very close to $2 million, with likely followup costs running at least another $1 million.

Just figured I should tip you off, so you could start poking around for info.

So the Bureau of Elections (run by Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land [R]) sent these things out to everybody less than four months before the election with no realistic hope of deleting people whose cards are returned within the next month or so (as the law prescribes). They have no realistic chance of doing this because in order to knock someone off the Qualified Voter File, you're required to deal with the local clerks and they have to do a bunch of stuff (jump through hoops, as Mark says).

So how is this a "GOP-inspired scheme"? Well, apparently all of these cards that are returned to the Elections Bureau are public record. That means the Republicans (or anybody) could get them - through FOIA or otherwise - for very little cost and use them to clean up their list. And if nobody on our side had noticed what was going on, they would have been able to get a an exclusive and newly-cleaned list, courtesy of the taxpayers.

If this is the case, sorry, Amway brigade, the jig is now up.

As they say on Fox News and all of those other hairdo channels, this is a "developing story." There are probably other permutations here that haven't been exposed yet. If you know of one, please leave it in the comments. When Mark wakes up, perhaps he'll have some things to add/correct.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE by Matt:

In the comments, Grebner notes that the mailing does indeed appear to be statewide and...
...it seems possible that the real motive may have been to provide a list of voters to challenge if they show up at the polls, which will give the Republicans something to do on election day.

For extra credit, please write an essay explaining how an unnecessary mailing at public expense is related to the Republican mantras of fighting waste and minimizing government.
Any takers? Still would really like to know where the money came from to fund this weird excursion.
matt :: What is Terri Land (R) doing now?
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A more possible tactic
is for Republicans to build up lists for challenging voters in predominately Democratic Precincts.

It would be very interesting to see what precincts received these cards and what ones didn't if it isn't state wide.

It appears the mailing IS statewide.
And it seems possible that the real motive may have been to provide a list of voters to challenge if they show up at the polls, which will give the Republicans something to do on election day.

For extra credit, please write an essay explaining how an unnecessary mailing at public expense is related to the Republican mantras of fighting waste and minimizing government.

Question for Prof. Grebner
OK, so say the Elections Bureau was to start a big statewide push to clean up the QVF - not just in 2006, but in any year. How long would such a process take - and when would be the ideal time to start? It would seem to me that this would be the absolute WORST time in the cycle to start such a process. By the time you're done, it's too late to do anything for the election at hand, and up to two years until the next major general election. By then, a whole bunch more people would have moved or died.

And then, of course, there's the issue of getting the local clerks to do what you want them to...

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
The theory is that the LOCAL CLERKS handle this
The way State law is written, it's up to the local Clerks to initiate this process.  If she really wanted to facilitate something like this, she should either help the locals do it (by providing forms, funding, training, etc) or change State law to centralize the function.

If you were trying to do something like this seriously, I suppose you should start about March 1 of an even-numbered year.

[ Parent ]
Easy Answer
It's all the classic mind-boggling Republican two-step, designed to confuse every day Joe Citizen into a mind-spin, with an end result of being so confused that they vote for the guy with the biggest yard signs (Rogers) and the other guy with the seemingly endless (and pointless) TV ads. Classic Republican Playbook.
One has to ask - (and it appears Saul's the guy to ask...) is this designed for the "Americans" or the "Democrats"?

-Don't just get angry, get motivated, get out, and vote-

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

[ Parent ]
Received one also
Do you think that a lot will be returned? Seems this is something that people would just throw away, thinking it wasn't all that important.

They aren't looking for YOU to do anything - it's up to the Post Office
The cards are specifically endorsed "Return Service Requested" which tells the Post Office to return the card to the sender, if there's any reason it can't be delivered as addressed, along with any notations about the reason.  For example, if you've decided to forward your mail to your PO Box, that will cause your card to be returned.

More importantly, anybody who has moved across the street will find themselves on the "challenge" list, in spite of the fact that it's perfectly legal to move temporarily while continuing to vote at your old address.  For example, people renovating a house, serving in the military, attending college, on vacation, etc.

[ Parent ]
Was thinking of Matt getting the card..
addressed to a former occupant- I get stuff like that all the time too. Letters, I return. Postcards like this, I probably wouldn't bother (which makes Matt a better citizen than I). I barely glanced at the thing- and I think most folks would just toss it.

I can see your point about the PO boxes-

[ Parent ]
Post Office only promises to
forward mail for one year. Some locations do it a little longer, but if you've moved more than a year ago chances are very high that the current occupants of your previous address will get your card.

Yes, I know it's not be forwarded with "Return Service Requested," but you also don't get the piece back with the new address.

Anyway, it all does present a good reason to make sure we have every polling place covered with trained challengers and observers. Frankly something the Democratic party should have learned after Florida in 2000.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, Oscar Wilde, 1895

[ Parent ]
I got one...
but wife didn't what does that mean?

Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living. - Mother Jones

No cards received at our house - Canton
I agree this is fishy, but if it was a statewide mailing how would they know who to challenge in most places? I thought the SOS purged the party affiliation info from '92 years ago. Voters are only worth challenging if you're certain they aren't friendly.

I could see where a targeted mailing could be of value.

Readers, please tell us if you've received a card and where you live. Thanks.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, Oscar Wilde, 1895

Just focus your harrassment in the areas that typically vote Democratic. That's what they usually do anyway. If you're in Detroit, for example, you can be about 90% certain that whoever you're challenging is a Democratic voter.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
Owosso friends report getting them
one received one with his name, and another with a name he didn't recognize (though he knows the man wasn't the former tenant of his apartment)

Here in Caledonia Twp (a few miles east) we didn't get anything, as far as I know.

[ Parent ]
City of Corunna got 'em
Our county chair called the state party & they had already heard about it (as of today, I believe) ... Carol thinks Brewer's office will be calling her back on Monday.  fwiw.

[ Parent ]
GOP, not SOS
SOS might not keep that information, but the GOP knows who votes how right down to the last block.  Dems are improving their data collection in this area too.  I don't know how they're getting it--maybe Mark can fill us in (without giving away any company secrets, of course).

So Land (R) collects info on whose registration is dubious enough to challenge at the polls, then Saul A. enters a FOIA request for the results, matches it up with his database, and contacts likely republican voters and tells them to go register, pronto.

The beauty of it is, if your postcard is undeliverable as addressed, you never even know that the mailing took place--unless it gets splashed all over the news.

I'm not that eartha - or that one either

[ Parent ]
Rec'd mine this morning (Kalamazoo County)
...but as above, my wife didn't (maybe tomorrow).

We have a voter listed in the QVF at our address who was a college student the former owner had as a lodger, so at least 16 years ago. Several times I've tried to get our county clerk to delete her, even said I'd swear out an affadavit - no interest. If that is any indication, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm at the county level in having a clean list.

So - who at MDP needs to know about this, so they can file a FOIA to get the return cards list?

Rest assured...
...they know.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
Chill pill
I got mine yesterday. Lansing is obviously a major processing center and it could very likely it was mailed from Lansing. Generally something mailed to a local address gets delivered the next day.

Considering how efficient the both the SOS and USPS is in other areas, I highly doubt they could manage a purge on the books for the fall election.

The timing makes it far more likely it's an effort to make sure people are registered and know where their polling places are.

Perhaps rather than tossing out wild accusations, someone could call up the SOS PIO and ask them about the program. For all anyone knows this campaign could have been earmakred in the state budget or SOS could have got a federal grant for it. Odds are they don't have the funds just laying around to do a state-wide mailing all under the radar.

Party right, and partly wrong
You're right that there isn't enough time to properly invoke MCL 168.509AA, which sets a deadline of August 10 for completing any program of mailings to assure voter list accuracy.

But the purpose was certainly not have been "to make sure people are registered and know where their polling places are".  For one thing, it was only mailed to people who are already registered.  And it didn't list their polling places - which would have been very easy to include.  Instead, it includes their file# in bar code form, and instructions to the Post Office to return it if undeliverable as addressed.

In response to the last point - that we should call the Public Info people:  we HAVE.  And they won't take our calls or call us back.

There's no Federal grant for this, nor was it earmarked state money - I watch for such things.  They scraped the money up and put it out as quietly as they could.  If you go to Michigan.Gov/Vote (which is where the post card directs you) you won't find even a hint about this $2,000,000 program.

[ Parent ]
Yes, thanks!
Appreciate all of the info.

[ Parent ]
Just want to say...
...it is good to have you with us, Mark.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

No kidding
Great work!

You've sold me- can't wait to see where this leads...

[ Parent ]
I'm going to agree with Matt,
A government agency doesn't just decide to do something for shits and giggles.  Mailing costs money and they had to have believed they were getting their (or somebody elses) monies worth.  Hopefully some traditional news outlets pick up on it and avoid the spin.

Sneak preview
until Williamsman gets here, but it might have something to do with this:



I had been expecting voter ID card legislation all spring, but when spring turned to summer, I figured it was too late.  No way will they get photo ID this late in the game, but how about a stealth bill requiring a non-photo state-issued ID card before you're allowed to vote?  Those of us who got our cards in the mail today would get the cards automatically before the election.  If you've moved, you have to track down a secretary of state office in your neighborhood and find your way over there, by bus or bike if you don't have a car.

BTW, I agree with Williamsman that Land has gerrymandered her SOS operations to favor suburban areas and GOP counties.  I recently had to call SOS with a procedural question.  Tried to call Lansing first at 332-1460 (the only number listed in the phone book--there are three other branches sharing a second phone number, 483-8305, that you can only get by going online).  I went through a lengthy automated phone tree, and the last step was, "We're sorry.  No one is available to help you."  CLICK.  At least they could have said goodbye first.  I then called St. Johns, which has its own phone number, and got a friendly, knowledgable live person after two rings.

So when republican types (some who just registered with MichLib today) get on here and tell me we're wearing tinfoil hats, pardon me if I think you're joking.  Har-har--who says you guys have no sense of humor?

I'm not that eartha - or that one either

SOS Land GOP shenanigans
Live in detroit zip code no postcard today, will let you know when I do. Does anyone know what info is in the bar code? ss numbers? drivers lic? employment? secret codes encripted? The best would be not to return postcards? As congress continues to waste our money talking of flags and fags, illegal immigrants are going to be able to vote before the african americans that were born here.

The bar code is simply your file #
We looked up a couple of them, and it's simply a number (between 8 and 13 digits) which is the permanent state voter file number.  Nothing interesting, secret, dangerous, or anything else.  Just a simple hook to link the returned card back to your voter record.

Sorry to disappoint.

[ Parent ]
Does Mary Waters have a website yet?!?!
Waters v. Land....could get interesting.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. - Winston Churchill  

[ Parent ]
They sent them to a solid Rethug County!
We got those cards here in Allegan County, which hasn't voted for a Democrat since Lincoln's first election, so if they are going to use them to create a list of voters to challenge, doing it here will actually hurt the Rethugs!

Not necessarily
GOP could FOIA the list of people whose cards were returned, run a database match against likely republican voters, and then contact them with a friendly note:  "you're not registered to vote, better do it before the election."

Of course, dems can do the exact same thing if we get our act together.

I'm not that eartha - or that one either

[ Parent ]
$2 million
plus another million to follow up.  Seems like there's a statute requiring all appropriations over a half million to be done by legislative action.  I'll look it up tomorrow.

Following the money could lead to some interesting places.  Consider that SOS would have to dig pretty deep into its budget to come up with $3 million, but a certain gubanatorial candidate would have no trouble coming up with the money.

Someone needs to look up the postage paid permit number and see who owns it.  A lot of times a company doing bulk mailings will hire a mail house to run the addresses and bar codes and use the mail house's permit, so this might not tell us anything, but it's still worth checking out.  Also, note the union bug.  Is the state required to use a union printer?

I'm not that eartha - or that one either

The permit is Lansing First Class Permit #1200
. . .  which I'm sure is the Secretary of State's regular mailing permit.  (I haven't looked it up, but I'm sure.)

As far as being union-printed, you'll be pleased to know that a careful examination yields THREE union bugs:  UAW, MSEA, and SEIU.

I don't think there's any reason to doubt that this mailing was entirely official.

[ Parent ]
Permit 1200
Is that what everyone's card says?  7 million cards would overwhelm Lansing's two bulk mail acceptance centers unless sent out over a period of at least a week.

The other thing is, what's to stop SOS from paying for printing and a friendly third party cutting a check for the postage directly to a mail house?  The latter is the biggest expense of this.

Mark, you're right that the mailing is probably official, because the consequences of Land mixing it up with a private party are too frightening for even the worst of partisan thugs.  But I've done graphic design for years, and for me the layout has the feel of a private ad.  If Land managed to scrape together $2 million from money she had stored in the mattress, she's going to great lengths to keep a low profile while she does it.

I'm not that eartha - or that one either

[ Parent ]
From a June 7th SOS Press Release
"My administration has made it a high priority to ensure that voter lists in our state are as accurate as possible and Detroit is making excellent progress toward this goal," Land said. "By identifying tens of thousands of registered voter records that are obsolete and subject to cancellation, local officials are reducing opportunities for fraud and the costs of administering future elections."

Since last July, using funds from the federal Help America Vote Act, the Department of State has reimbursed local clerks more than $361,000 for the costs of mailing new voter ID cards to registered voters. The mailings are the main method for verifying those records in the state’s Qualified Voter File (QVF) that are up-to-date.

If the ID cards are returned as "undeliverable," the clerk sends a confirmation notice to the voters’ last address on file. The notice informs the voters that their registration will be canceled if they fail to respond to the notice or vote over the course of the next two federal election cycles.


Reimbursing LOCAL clerks
Note here that Land is talking about LOCAL clerks being reimbursed by the state using federal HAVA funds for their LOCAL efforts to send out cards and clean up their lists. That's completely different than the STATE sending out a mailing to every individual on the entire Michigan Qualified Voter File. BTW, any individual identified by the STATE in this statewide process will still have to be sent at least one other mailing by their LOCAL clerk before being unregistered. Again, the point here is that LOCAL clerks are in charge of deciding who is registered and who isn't - not Terri Land.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
Terri responds...
Dear Michigan Voter:

Thank you so much for taking the time to voice your concerns. Your opinions are important to us!

Be assured that we here at the Secretary of State are monitoring and recording every e-mail, letter, and telephone call that we receive so we can address your needs in a timely and beneficial manner.

Due to Homeland Security Directive 86425-7J, we will not be able to answer your question on bar codes at this time. Please understand that this is in the interest of national security and releasing that information is prohibited. Direct all comments and questions to: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Washington DC, 20528.

The Secretary of State promises to make your voting experience this Fall a memorable one. Feel free to contact us at anytime!


Terri Lynn Land

Is this an email auto-respond? (n/t)

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
auto snark response ;-) (n/t)

[ Parent ]
that's the most absurt thing i've ever seen in my life.
and i would prefer if my voting experience this fall wasn't a memorable one.

[ Parent ]
It was a joke
Supposed to be absurd.

Will tag it better next time.

[ Parent ]
it's kind of sad
that i could take something like that seriously.  speaks to the world we live in.

[ Parent ]
And yes, it does speak to our world since Bush. I think I've finally got the lingo down, maybe a little too well.

Scary stuff.

[ Parent ]
Wonderful conversation with Chris Thomas, Director of Elections
I just got off the phone with Chris Thomas, who made it clear that he wanted to answer EVERY question fully and completely.  Yes, they DO read Matt's blog.  And here - in brief - are the answers, some of them surprising.

First, "one" of the main purposes of the mailing was to troll for data.  Chris - toeing the company line - insisted that "the educational compenent was important too" but pretty quickly cut to the chase.

Second, they intend to completely ignore the role set out for local Clerks in Michigan law, and just run the program themselves.  This is mainly a reaction to the lack of cooperation they've gotten from local Clerks.  Chris's claim was that Federal law supersedes the provisions of State law.  I don't believe that (we're both attorneys) but since the Republicans control the courts, I suppose their version might prove triumphant, if the question is ever litigated.

Third, all the data from the returns is public, although Chris seemed taken aback by my desire for my employees to actually handle the hundreds of thousands of cards that will come back.  He had thought I'd be happy with a CD at the end of the process.

Fourth, they're going to ignore the postal "endorsements" on each returned piece of the reason for the return.  They'll treat all returned pieces identically.  This strikes me as illegal, since they plan to act under MCL 168.509AA which requires "reliable information" that the person has moved out of the municipality.  As I've explained to Chris, I think they should break out certain returned cards for separate treatment, which he doesn't currently plan to do.

For example, if a postcard is marked "mail cannot be delivered due to unleashed dog" - which is a real endorsement - I don't see how you infer that somebody has moved away.

Finally, and most interestingly, they've given up taking any action before November's election.  Total surrender.  They'll send out a forwardable letter asking people to respond, but regardless of what they get back, they will leave people on the rolls for this November.  I'm certain that wasn't the original plan, but as Emily Latella would say, "Never mind."

Onondaga Township
I live in (US Congressional:8, State Senate:  23, State Representative: 67, County Commission:  67, School District:  16).

I received a postcard on Saturday, July 8th
My husband received his postcard on Friday, July 7th

I hope this helps. 

[ Parent ]
They have made it to Ann Arbor
We received ours today.

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