Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Caging" - an explanation of the term

Monica Goodling used the term "caging" in her testimony this morning, and at one site I read the term was described as committing a crime. Monica was probably not using the term in its criminal sense.

"Caging" has two meanings. First, it is a term used in direct mail operations to describe the process of opening, sorting, and coding donor mail and correspondence. The coding creates a "caging list" which is the organized data that is then given to the organization using the services of the direct mail contractor. That processed information is used to update the customer's lists.

The second meaning of "caging" is a form of voter suppression. It is a term that describes the process of challenging the validity of the voter registration of a voter so that they are required to prove they are registered before their vote will be counted. Wikipedia offers this description of the use of "caging" to suppress voter turnout:
Voters targeted by caging are often the most vulnerable: those who are unfamiliar with their rights under the law, and those who cannot spare the time, effort, and expense of proving that their registration is valid. Ultimately, caging works by dissuading a voter from casting a ballot, or by ensuring that they cast a provisional ballot, which is less likely to be counted.

With one type of caging, a political party sends registered mail to addresses of registered voters. If the mail is returned as undeliverable - because, for example, the voter refuses to sign for it, the voter isn't present for delivery, or the voter is homeless - the party uses that fact to challenge the registration, arguing that because the voter could not be reached at the address, the registration is fraudulent. It is this use of direct mail caging techniques to target voters which probably resulted in the application of the name to the political tactic.

On the day of the election, when the voter arrives at the poll and requests a ballot, an operative of the party challenges the validity of their registration.

While the challenge process is prescribed by law, the use of broad, partisan challenges is controversial. For example, in the United States Presidential Election of 2004, the Republican Party employed this process to challenge the validity of tens of thousands of voter registrations in contested states like Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Republican Party argued that the challenges were necessary to combat widespread voter fraud. The Democratic Party countered that the challenges were tantamount to voter suppression, and further argued that the Republican Party had targeted voter registrations on the basis of the race of the voter, in violation of federal law.
This form of voter suppression obviously works a lot better on people who do not routinely carry a variety of forms of ID and who find it difficult to get time off from work to take care of personal matters, so the Republicans tend to use it to reduce Democratic voter turnout.

I seriously doubt that Monica Goodling was using the term "caging" in its second meaning as she was testifying before the House Committee this morning.

1 comment:

rfahel said...

Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

The proposed recent "Do not mail" is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing - and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today's [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today's merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman's mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer's right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.

http://www.newdream.org/emails/ta19.html

Signed,
Ramsey A Fahel