Earlier this week, Washington Post investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Jeff Leen hosted an online chat at washingtonpost.com. One of the participants asked Woodward and Leen how pervasive the voter suppression tactic known as “caging” is. The investigative reporters had no idea what it was:
Washington, D.C.: Don’t you have a duty to report criminal activity to the appropriate authorities?
How pervasive is “caging”?
Bob Woodward and Jeff Leen: We publish what we can find and document. Many times over the years government authorities have pursued the information we have dug up and launched their own investigations. But we’re trying to serve the readers, and we do not act as police or prosecutors. And please send us an e-mail explaing what “caging” is.
Woodward and Leen aren’t the only Washington Post reporters who are clueless about caging. In a washingtonpost.com online chat with congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman in May, a questioner asked “why Congress didn’t jump on Monica Goodling’s testimony about caging.” Weisman’s response: “So what is this caging thing?”
So for all those Washington Post reporters out there, let’s go over the facts again.
Caging most recently gained attention in the U.S. attorney scandal. In 2004, BBC News published a report showing that Tim Griffin, the former Rove protege who was placed as a U.S. attorney in Arkansas, led a “caging” scheme to suppress the votes of African-American servicemembers in Florida.
On Nov. 5, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Caging Prohibition Act, a bill to outlaw this “long-recognized voter suppression tactic which has often been used to target minority voters.” Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to dismiss this as “direct-mail term.” But the charges are serious enough that earlier this year, several senators called for an investigation into the RNC’s use of this voter suppression tactic. Whitehouse and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) explained:
Caging is a voter suppression tactic whereby a political campaign sends mail marked “do not forward” to a targeted group of eligible voters. A more aggressive version involves sending mail to a targeted group of voters with instructions to sign and return an acknowledgment card. The campaign then creates a list of those whose mail was returned undelivered and challenges the right of those citizens to vote — on the ground that the voter does not live at the registered address.