A commenter in response to my earler post on our hapless (and now ex-) SEIU operative wanted to know if I would offer a "a similar critique about the just-exposed conservative voter suppression efforts ...." Faith will be rewarded.
One Wisconsin Now accuses certain conservative operates from running what they call "a vote caging" operation which, according to Bill Christofferson, is made illegal by the National Voter Registration Act.
The first thing to note is that "vote caging" is not a legal term. Some things that people call "vote caging" might be illegal, but not because of a direct legal prohibition against it.
By vote caging, most people mean a process in which potential voters are sent some type of mail that is either nonforwardable or requires a response and then some effort to remove these voters from the rolls when the mail is returned or there is no response.
The federal statute referred to by Mr. Christofferson is not, as he seems to think, an absolute prohibition against ever challenging a voter on the basis that they do not reside within the voting district, but a limitation on the circumstances under which states may remove registrants from the rolls based on failure to vote or change of registration. Thus, the state can't simply remove registrants on the basis of returned mail. But this doesn't preclude any further inquiry as to the eligibility of a voter. Compare, e.g., U.S. Student Ass'n Foundation v. Land
546 F.3d 373 (6th Cir. 2008) with Bell v. Marinko, 367 F.3d 588 (6th Cir. 2004).
Techniques referred to as vote caging sometimes involve challenges at the polls, but it is unclear to me that the groups here were planning to do that. Such a practice has been challenged when specifically targetted at minority voters, but there is not, in my voew, a general prohibition against challenges that a voter is ineligible because he or she doesn't live within the district.
However, it seems fairly obvious that such a challenge is not going to succeed if it based on nothing more than returned mail. The documents seem to suggest that the groups were planning to do much more than that, but, if it was their intent to seek the removal of, or make challenges to, voters based on returned mail, it wouldn't have worked. It wouldn't have forced the casting of provisional ballots and, depending on how it was implemented, might have faced other legal challenges.