Who Really Won?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sore Loser Loses Again

North Carolina lawmakers selected a new superintendent of public schools on Tuesday, resolving the nation's last undecided statewide election from November 2004.

The Democratic candidate, June Atkinson, was picked to run the state's 1.4-million-student school system by a 93-to-21 vote in a joint session of the Senate and House.

It was the first time since 1835 that North Carolina lawmakers determined the winner of a statewide office.

The outcome was expected: a 10-member legislative panel recommended Ms. Atkinson, and Democrats hold a 14-seat advantage in the General Assembly.

In the Nov. 2 election, Ms. Atkinson beat her Republican opponent, Bill Fletcher, by 8,535 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast. But Mr. Fletcher went to court, arguing that at least 11,000 ballots cast outside of voters' home precincts were unlawful.

Republicans Don't Want You to Vote

A federal prosecutor said he will reconvene a grand jury in a case involving the jamming of Democratic phone lines in 2002 -- raising the possibility that other Republicans might be implicated.

Phone lines were bombarded with electronically generated calls, jamming lines set up for voters seeking rides to the polls on Election Day. Two GOP operatives have pleaded guilty in the case and a third is scheduled for trial.

"The grand jury will meet at least one additional time before the end of this year," Justice Department attorney Andrew Levchuk told a judge Wednesday.

Levchuk asked the judge to delay a civil lawsuit brought by state Democrats against the state GOP over the jamming, which also affected one phone line run by a nonpartisan firefighters' union.

A grand jury has indicted James Tobin, former regional director for the Republican National Committee, for allegedly orchestrating the jamming. Tobin, who was the regional chairman for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, has pleaded innocent.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What They Did Last Fall

Paul Krugman provides us with a book review and a warning:

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

So what does U.S. democracy look like? There have been two Democratic reports on Ohio in 2004, one commissioned by Representative John Conyers Jr., the other by the Democratic National Committee.

...both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Only eight months into his second term, and George W. Bush finds his “base” to consist of only 10 states, according to a new national summary by Survey USA of Bush’s state-by-state approval ratings. There are only ten states in the country where Bush’s approval rating exceeds his disapproval rating, according to polls this month Survey USA, and another two states, North Carolina and Louisiana, where his approval and disapproval ratings are the same. These kind of numbers portend bad thingss for the GOP's 2006 candidates in many of these states, and will also cause problems for the GOP's presidential hopes in 2008.

The ten states where Bush still maintains an approval rating greater than his disapproval rating are below, as well as the spread.

Alabama (+7%)
Idaho (+23%)
Mississippi (+2%)
Montana (+5%)
Nebraska (+13%)
North Dakota (+6%)
Oklahoma (+4%)
Texas (+11%)
Utah (+19%)
Wyoming (+20%)

Those states accounted for only 79 electoral votes in 2004. If you want more eye-opening numbers, take a look at how things look right now for Bush in Missouri (-20%), Ohio (-23%), Virginia (-10%), Iowa (-13%), Kentucky (-11%), Nevada (-17%), New Mexico (-15%), and Florida (-9%). These are all states Bush claimed in the red column just ten months ago, and gives you an idea of how the Democrats, with the right candidate, could recapture these key states, especially the border states like Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia in 2008.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hypocrites? We Report, You Decide

Despite a zero-tolerance policy on tampering with voters, the Republican Party has quietly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide private defense lawyers for a former Bush campaign official charged with conspiring to keep Democrats from voting in New Hampshire.

James Tobin, the president's 2004 campaign chairman for New England, is charged in New Hampshire federal court with four felonies accusing him of conspiring with a state GOP official and a GOP consultant in Virginia to jam Democratic and labor union get-out-the-vote phone banks in November 2002.

A telephone firm was paid to make repeated hang-up phone calls to overwhelm the phone banks in New Hampshire and prevent them from getting Democratic voters to the polls on Election Day 2002, prosecutors allege. Republican John Sununu won a close race that day to be New Hampshire's newest senator.

At the time, Tobin was the RNC's New England regional director, before moving to President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

A top New Hampshire Party official and a GOP consultant already have pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors. Tobin's indictment accuses him of specifically calling the GOP consultant to get a telephone firm to help in the scheme.

"The object of the conspiracy was to deprive inhabitants of New Hampshire and more particularly qualified voters ... of their federally secured right to vote," states the latest indictment issued by a federal grand jury on May 18.

Since charges were first filed in December, the RNC has spent more than $722,000 to provide Tobin, who has pleaded innocent, a team of lawyers from the high-powered Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly.

The Republican Party has repeatedly and pointedly disavowed any tactics aimed at keeping citizens from voting since allegations of voter suppression surfaced during the Florida recount in 2000 that tipped the presidential race to Bush.

Earlier this week, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, the former White House political director, reiterated a "zero-tolerance policy" for any GOP official caught trying to block legitimate votes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Attempt At Fair Elections in Ohio

Critics of the Republican grip on Ohio politics filed petitions on Tuesday that seek a statewide vote on three constitutional amendments that would overturn the way elections are run and strip elected officials of their power to draw legislative districts.

The move, by the group Reform Ohio Now, is an effort to tap into sentiment across the country to remove political influence from the mechanics of elections. The movement has been sparked in part by partisan lines that are sharply reducing electoral competition in Congress and by efforts by political outsiders like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to upend the established order.

The Ohio group is backed by so-called good-government organizations like Common Cause, though Republicans insist it is little more than a front for disgruntled Democrats frozen out of power.

If its petitions are successful, a vote on the proposed amendments would be held in November in a campaign that Republicans and Democrats predicted would draw intense interest and millions of dollars from outside the state.

"People are fed up," Scarlett Bouder, a leader of Reform Ohio Now, said in a telephone news conference from Columbus, where the petitions were filed. "They want change."

The most significant of the amendments would effectively strip Republican elected officials of their control over redistricting, the reverse of an effort in California intended primarily for Democratic lawmakers that is backed by Mr. Schwarzenegger, who himself came into office through an recall election.

In both states, redistricting would be handed to an independent panel appointed by Republicans and Democrats, though a vote on the California measure is likely to be delayed until next year because of a legal challenge. A California appeals court, in a 2-to-1 decision, sided on Tuesday with opponents of the redistricting measure, ruling that it should not appear on the November ballot. The proponents are appealing to the State Supreme Court.

While officially nonpartisan, the Ohio group is dominated by Democrats and independents who have complained about the conduct of Republican officials in the state as well as about the handling of the presidential election in Ohio last fall by J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican secretary of state who is seeking his party's nomination for governor.

In addition to the redistricting measure, the proposed amendments would remove the secretary of state from oversight of elections, instead giving the power to an appointed election master. And it would lower some campaign contribution limits. Republicans in Ohio control the governor's office, the State Legislature, the attorney general's office, the Supreme Court and the state auditor and secretary of state's offices.

Rest here from the NY Times.

Happy Paper Trails To Us!

USA Today notes the trend:

Three years into a national debate over the security and reliability of computerized voting machines, the skeptics are winning.
In the past month, legislatures in five states — Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Oregon — have passed laws requiring computer-based voting machines to produce a paper backup that can be verified by the voter, according to Electionline.org, which monitors voting systems. That brings to 25 the number of states that require a paper trail.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia are considering similar legislation.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Latest Ohio Suspicions

Via The Brad Blog, who thinks this is a right winger, but it's from a Daily Kos Democrat, but good info anyway:

The following is from the Rightwing "Red State" blog...and expresses an honest concern about what the hell may have happened in Clermont County during last Tuesday's OH-2 U.S. House Special Election race between Democrat Paul Hackett and Republican Jean Schmidt...

While you may think Democrats cry wolf on election fraud at the drop of the hat, and I agree, suspicion of the results from Clermont County in Ohio is reasonable based on what's happened there in the last year. What am I talking about? Within the last year, in this one county, there has been; an FBI investigation, a "second draft" of voting results, and yesterday's "machine breakdown".

I am one of those "kossacks" who thinks that the election irregularities in Clermont county are not a fluke. Before you write me off as a lunatic, please just look at the following situation;

1. The FBI investigated allegations of fraud made by some involved in the vote counting process in this county in 2004.
[Broken Link to Cincinatti Enquirer article]

2. There were also irregularities in this county in the GOP primary this year, favoring Schmidt. From the Enquirer:

"When all seven counties had reported their votes to the Hamilton County Board of Elections Tuesday night, Schmidt led McEwen by 705 votes. But when Hamilton County Elections Director John Williams came to work Wednesday morning, he found a second corrected version of Clermont County's final results on his fax machine.

The new totals increased Schmidt's lead to 2,667 votes. Williams said Clermont County officials explained to him that one of their workers accidentally marked an earlier report with the word "final'' and sent it to the Hamilton County board, where all the county reports were being collected."
[Broken Link to Cincinatti Enquirer article]

3. The "ballot sticking" explanation may indeed be a true one; however, it does sound fishy, you have to admit. You have to ask, why was this the only county with this problem, and why did the problem only materialize halfway through the vote counting process?

4. Why did the live-updating vote counting website go down immediately before the new results were posted?

You may not think that anything fraudulent happened, but I think it's understandable that there's suspicion. Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to make clear that just because we yell "fraud" doesn't mean it's not there. I think we all agree that fraud does occur, in some places; for some reason, this one county has had three serious irregularities in the last year. I think it's obvious there's a possibility that a county in which there are 3 irregularities in the space of a year is doing something wrong.