By Joan McCarter
The Daily Kos

This fall, Daily Kos community member Bill Busa exposed North Carolina's sneaky new voter suppression tool in which county boards of elections in the state closed almost one-third of the state’s early voting polling places in 2014, replacing them with polls at new locations. The result of moving those early voting locations: African American voters found themselves 350,000 miles farther away from their nearest early voting sites than they were in 2012, while white voters’ total distance-to-poll increased by only 21,000 miles.
This blatant attempt to keep black voters from the polls by making it harder for them to vote, Busa and voting rights organizations he's been working with say, is akin  to "poll taxes and literacy tests did during the South’s Jim Crow era." It's one Busa has vowed to fight, both by exposing the ploy in North Carolina and by creating a new policy-driven, non-profit data analysis firm, Insightus, which will "harnesses the 21st Century technology of data science to promote a just, civil, democratic and sustainable world." 
Insightus researchers exposed the North Carolina through sophisticated computer-aided analysis using State Board of Elections voter registration data (which include home address and ethnicity information) for each of the state’s 6.4 million registered voters, plus the street addresses of the state’s early voting sites in both 2012 and 2014. Crunching these numbers, and revealed the striking disparity in distance-to-poll changes imposed on black, but not white, voters. Today, Insightus releases the full report from Busa's research in North Carolina, and launches the Fair Places Project, in which they hope to expose similar actions by elections boards in other states. Busa explains:
"Once we understood the sheer magnitude of the scam that is being perpetrated here, we realized that our next step has to be to look at racial disparity in polling place locations for other states, as well. North Carolina has been a high-priority target for the Koch brothers and other radical plutocrats, so it seems reasonable to assume that what's working for them here is probably being implemented in other states, as well.
"We call the fifty-state extension of what we've done for North Carolina the 'Fair Places Project.' But fifty states might be a little optimistic. The Project's scope will ultimately be determined by how successful we are in recruiting more volunteers—people with the right analytical skills—as well as how successful we are in fundraising. As a rough estimate, I figure a fifty-state Project would cost us a million dollars or more. Most states sell their voter registration records rather than just give them away as North Carolina does, and commercial geocoding services are expensive when you start talking about geocoding a hundred million addresses. So the ultimate scope of the Fair Places Project is really in the hands of prospective donors, both large and small, as well as prospective volunteers with data science skills. Basically, the progressive community gets to vote—with their dollars and their sweat—on whether the Fair Places Project should happen or not. If they vote 'yes,' then we'll make it happen."

We already know North Carolina isn't the only state implementing this trick. Last month, news broke that the Republican-led board of elections in Montgomery County, Maryland was attempting to pull the same trick. It's highly probable that this is a national Republican effort, one that Insightus intends to fight.


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