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Update from Grebner...

by: matt

Fri Jul 14, 2006 at 14:18:53 PM EDT

Mark Grebner gives us some VERY interesting tidbits in his latest comment attached to yesterday's post on Terri Land's statewide mailing. They deserve to be up top:
I just got off the phone with (state elections director) 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 component 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."
Huh. Apparently the Secretary of State has decided to just ignore Michigan law. Perhaps this is our version of George Bush's "unitary executive" theory? Gee, maybe the Governor could start doing that too! Just send the Legislature home. We don't need them anymore. Could be fun, yes?

Seriously, thanks again, Mark, for the update. We'll look forward to sifting through all of those cards.

BTW, I wonder how the local clerks will feel when they learn their authority is about to be taken away through administrative diktat.
matt :: Update from Grebner...
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very very strange,
i hope whoever runs mrs. waters campaign knows what they are doing...

Use of the compiled information by Republican poll challengers
I should make explicit that there's nothing to stop the Michigan Republican Party from obtaining Land's file of returned postcards, printing up lists of names by precinct, and sending their zealots to the polls on Election Day to challenge anybody whose name appears.

If that happens, it will mean a few percent of all voters will be required to produce ID or else cast a challenged ballot, with the requirement of providing ID the next day.

I don't see exactly what the point of this exercise would be, since so few votes would be at stake.  But I've always wondered about the point of their sitting at the polls waiting year after year.  Now, at least, they can check every incoming voter against the printout, and once in a while shout "STOP! FRAUD!".

I've returned my personal postcard to the Secretary of State, crossing out my name and writing "Return to Sender".  Perfectly legal.  It doesn't suggest I've moved away, or that my registration is in any way defective.  But I look forward, on Election Day, to their trying to claim they have information that I'm a fraudster.

I encourage everybody who's game, to return their cards as well, just so we can keep track of their movements.

That's not very smart
Sp while you are having your constitutional argument and challenging the challengers...how many other Democrats will have to stand in line behind you waiting to vote.

Challenging is more then preventing voters from voting...it's about causing long lines in heavy Democratic precincts.

You want to do something constructive, get the SOS to release the post offices reasons for returns so that we can show that the cause was insufficient to challenge.

[ Parent ]
You're over-reacting
No Constitutional argument.  Republican challenger pops up and yells - "HE'S A FRAUD!".  The election workers look at him in amazement - they know me of course.  I pull out my drivers license.  The precinct chairperson looks at it and tells the worker to issue me a ballot.  I vote.

There are lots of problems in my precinct, with MSU students who have moved six times since they registered, especially in Presidential election years.  But my little problem will be handled in 5 minutes or less, and won't even hold up the line.

[ Parent ]
but you are encouraging everyone to do this
Multiple out your challenge times thousands of voters.

Someone is over reacting, but it isn't me...

The simple solution is to be prepared for any nonsense.

This means to have poll challengers at every....every precinct each with a list of names and why their card came back.

Also, have lawyers ready...

Also, be sure to let the person vote but put it in the challenged category.

ANYTHING that ties up the voting lines will impact turnout!

[ Parent ]
Rethug challengers
in the '05 Detroit election were a dress rehersal for '06.

I agree with you completely. I we need to be prepared in every precinct.

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

[ Parent ]
Suppress the Vote
If they can't kick voters off the rolls this cycle, they will at least use this process to slow down the vote and create long, lines, harassment, anger, and confusion and heavily Democratic polling places.

Also, if this was all about education, why didn't the postcard inform voters that the michigan.gov/vote has information about how to cast an absentee ballot?

My card will be returned as well with a message on both sides:


[ Parent ]
Who pays?
How did they come up with the money to do this? Could they just "scrape up" a potential 3 million bucks for something they aren't even going to "take action on"?

Has Chris Thomas Lost His Integrity or Was He Hammered Into Going Along with This "Vote Integrity" Project?
There was a story circulating about Chris Thomas talking about retiring after having a contentious dust up with the Secretary of State's Chief of Staff and Republican Apparatchik Brian DeBano. Brian served in various Executive Office capacities for John Engler and now lives next door to Chief Unjustice Taylor. This was probably the issue. Chris publicly opposed past efforts of the Republican party to intimidate and suppress votes in urban areas through various "voter integrity" projects. This is a brilliant ploy because Republican challengers just need to slow the vote up in urban areas to cost the statewide Democrats thousands of votes. The Secretary may have been put way out on a very thin limb by her masters, DeVos and Anus, however as there is some very serious legal problems with this action. The Secretary does not go the bathroom or a meeting without putting out a press release so the fact that she ordered this done in a stealth manner without any publicity is very telling. What could be real fun is to see how much AG Cox was consulted and if he will chose to defend her.

FIOA the Returned Postcards And Exercise Your Right to Examine Them Mr. Grebner
I just read some of the earlier postings on this issue and I see Chris Thomas was taken aback by the idea of Mr. Grebner wanting his employees to handle the returned postcards. Under FIOA Mr. Grebner would have a right to examine the cards. The FIOA should probably not be limited to just the Secretary of State as other departments or agencies may actually have possession of the cards and would be bound to respond to such a FIOA before turning them over to the Secretary. Just an idea on a very hot evening.

FOIA for all Dem precinct workers
Simple solution here is to use the Freedom of Information Act to request the list of voter is each precinct of the state that have been shown to be questionable by this mailing. Then give them to the Democratic precinct workers, especially in Rethug precincts on the West Side, mine for example, so they can challenge any Rethug voter whose card was returned to the Sec of State. In areas were we are in the minority we actually need to use the Rethug methods and try to limit the number of Rethugs who get to vote by these challenges or by making the lines so slow that some of the Rethugs decide to go home instead of voting. We need to get them by using the same tactics that they have used so effectively to suppress the progressive vote.

An experienced elections clerk in Washtenaw offered a different take on the reason for Land's postcard:

"There is no explanation of the funding source, but I expect that they are using the $80 M HAVA grant.  Since the SOS has done no other "voter education" to satisfy the grant requirements, and blown over $24 million in replacing perfectly good optical scan equipment (Land's wasteful "one county-one brand" policy) this postcard mailing appears to be hurry-up window-dressing before the end of the federal fiscal year."

The SOS announced the postcard mailings in a curious way to local clerks: via issue #137 of "News You Can Use" an email from Corey Skradski, ES&S Account Representative.

The first of three items states:
"Public Information Campaign Initiated by Department of State: Please be advised that as a part of the Department of State’s ongoing efforts to promote voter participation, the attached postcard will be mailed to every registered voter in the state prior to the August 8 primary.

  The postcard reminds voters of the upcoming election dates and encourages them to access the Michigan Voter Information Center for any informational needs they may have. Please feel free to contact the Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections if you have any questions related to the distribution of the postcards. ..."

Very good insight - it's HAVA educational funds
In addition to explaining why they'd waste money so flagrantly (since it's not available for hiring or furniture or something they can actually use) it is consistent with their repeated insistence that the project is "educational".  Duh.  Maybe if the public were as dumb as they are.

Today I filed a FOIA request for details of the costs.  I'll post the information when I receive it.  Didn't occur to me to ask for details of the SOURCE of the money, but I think you've figured it out.

[ Parent ]
Some other affected groups...
Since the post cards have the "Return Service Requested" endorsement on them it would seem to me that:

1.)  Since the cards were sent in the summer, almost all cards sent to university students registered on or off campus will be returned.

2.)  University faculty and staff who are spending the summer doing research elsewhere, and are having their mail forwarded will also have their cards returned.  For that matter anyone who goes somewhere in the summer for a period long enough to get their mail forwarded, such as retirees who head up north to their cabin for the summer.

3.)  Any National Guard personel who have been called up and who had been living alone with have their cards returned.

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