PDMPs, voting rights and discrimination



Obviously I was not speaking with King Jr.—a bullet stole him from us in 1968. The question was posed by his son, Martin Luther King III. I spent an afternoon at his home in Atlanta, where we pored over the latest evidence that Americans of color were blocked at the doors to the polls in the 2014 midterm elections—by the hundreds of thousands.

As King’s 6-year-old daughter serenaded us with her toy drum set, we dived into a massive, secretive database used by elections officials—almost all of them Republicans—in 28 states. The scheme, called “Interstate Crosscheck,” threatens to disqualify the ballots of over a million voters, overwhelmingly citizens of color…

According to the GOP officials, these citizens had voted twice in the same election, in two different states—a federal crime. As punishment, their mail-in ballots would be junked and their registrations annulled. But no reporters had seen (or, for that matter, asked for) the lists. State officials, the modern-day equivalents of Bull Connor, refused our requests on grounds that these Americans were all suspects in a criminal investigation and therefore the files were confidential…

The lists go on like that: huge numbers accused solely on the basis of sharing a first and last name with a voter in another state.

It is clear what attracts Republican Katherine Harris wannabes to this absurd method of identifying fraudulent voters. The prevalence of name-sharing among black Americans is a legacy of slavery. The “Crosscheck” name-match game is also a darn good way of knocking off Hispanic voters…

I have to wonder if this database, used for Interstate Crosscheck, is also used by law enforcement — although it doesn’t appear as sophisticated as the PDMPs used for pain patients. After all, it doesn’t take much for a search function to find similar first and last names.  But it’s also a database that crosses state borders, just like the PDMPs. And it wouldn’t seem that hard for law enforcement to utilize both databases.  Does law enforcement have access to databases which include voting information?  I dunno, but they appear to have easy access to PDMPs.

I posted these links because nobody really knows what goes on behind the political scene, whether it’s how laws are created or what happens to all of our votes.  (Discrimination in voting laws affects everyone, not just people of color.)  It’s the same for the drug war, whose activities are shrouded for confidentiality reasons of potential and alleged crimes.  And PDMP databases are part of the drug war.

As a chronic pain patient, maybe you don’t mind having your name in the PDMP database.  If you’re a medical cannabis patient, maybe you don’t mind having your name in the state’s database.  After all, everyone is included in their state’s driver’s license database, which are now used across state borders by law enforcement, for purposes like allowing me to buy Claritan-D.

Then there’s our Social Security numbers, assigned to everyone at birth (and, I assume, reassigned after death).  It’s the number most commonly used to identify a person, and used by both state and federal databases.  Used by companies to identify employees, by banks to identify customers, and the list goes on.

All of these databases that hold our identifying information don’t seem too threatening.  I mean, we need drivers to register both themselves and their cars for all kinds of reasons, like insurance. And I can’t cash a check without a driver’s license, even though you don’t need one for a debit or credit card.

What I’m trying to point out is that all this digital information is freely available to law enforcement, whether we like it or not.  Freely available to any corporation or individual that wants to pay for it.

I guess PDMPs are part of our new digital era.  But just like voter databases, they can be used against us, and not only by law enforcement — by doctors, the health care industry, employers, and insurance companies, to name a few.

If you want to know how the chronic pain patient population will look in the future, just look at how some people have been discriminated against just because of the color of their skin.  And just like the color of your skin, chronic pain doesn’t ever go away — it’s a label pain patients wear for life — now memorialized forever in the PDMPs.

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