Usually, caging occurs when an official-looking, non-forwardable piece of mail is sent to a group of registered voters, often to minorities and students. The parties involved in caging then compile a list of voters whose mail was returned as undeliverable. On Election Day, these organizations will use the undeliverable mail to challenge voters at the polls, utilizing law enforcement and attorneys to support their challenges.
The goal of caging is two-fold. First, is to force as many voters as possible to cast provisional ballots, which require voters to follow-up the day after an election for the ballot to be counted. Historically, about 35% of all provisional ballots are never counted. Additionally, voters whose registration is challenged at the polling place are unlikely to have the required material to complete an Election Day registration, meaning the voter will be turned away at the polls.
The second goal is to create long lines at the polling place as the caging operation challenges voter after voter. Many people cannot afford to sit in line to vote for hours on end. Long lines discourage voters and many simply leave without casting a ballot.
Voter caging is a violation of the Help America Vote Act and is illegal.
James Rowen, a writer and consultant, has worked for newspapers, and as the senior Mayoral staffer, in Madison and Milwaukee, WI. This blog began on 2/2/ 2007. Posts run also at various news sites, including The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Purple Wisconsin."