Who Really Won?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Red State Disapproval

From Steve Soto over at The Left Coaster, a look at the Bush approval ratings, especially in the Red States:

First, if you want to see something that will concern Rove, take a look at how many red states have disapproval ratings of Bush equal to or exceeding his approval rating, within the 4% margin of error, and you will see that the Bush electoral stronghold is no more:

Texas: 50% Approve-47% Disapprove (yeah, I said Texas)
Virginia: 49%-46%
Louisiana: 49%-47%
Oklahoma: 49%-47%
South Carolina: 48%-47%
South Dakota: 48%-47%
Georgia: 48%-48%
Indiana: 48%-48%
Tennessee: 48%-49%
West Virginia: 47%-47%
Arizona: 46%-49%

Again, these are all red states. And if my guy had a disapproval rating of say 45% or over in a "base" state, I would be pretty concerned.

Second, note how Bush’s disapproval rating is at 50% or above in the following red states:

Florida (50%-hello Bro’)
Missouri (52%)
New Mexico (50%)
North Carolina (50%)
Colorado (52%)
Arkansas (52%)
Iowa (52%)

Did I mention that these were red states?

But more importantly, take a look at his disapproval rating in two other key “red” states:

Ohio: 57%
Nevada: 57%

Now, at the risk of stirring up new “Forget about Ohio” conspiracy taunts from freepers, please explain to me how Bush can be at 57% disapproval in Ohio eight months after “winning” the state with a flood of moral values voters streaming from the pews to the polls under the radar screen? I mean, only nine other states have a higher disapproval rating of Bush right now than Ohio and Nevada.

So what the hell happened to all these moral values voters who “delivered” Ohio to Bush at the finish line? Did they disappear back into church and manage to avoid being polled?

Or did they not exist in the first place?

FLA: Elections, GOP Style

Elections, GOP-style: Voting just a formality

Palm Beach Post Editorial

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gov. Bush completed the Republican makeover of Florida election laws last week by signing bills that make it harder to vote, shift control from local to state officials, give big-money contributors greater say and reduce majority rule.

How bad is it? In a three-person primary, 35 percent of the voters from just one party could determine who wins countywide offices such as sheriff or commissioner. In the Republican version of democracy, it's easy: When all the candidates are from one party, simply add a write-in candidate to close the primary to the opposing party's voters. Mix in the newly signed law eliminating runoffs and, voila, the candidate with a mere 35 percent of one party's vote can win.

Want to vote early but worried about long lines? The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Bush shortened the hours for early voting in the interests of "uniformity." Big counties, small counties, it doesn't matter. Instead of a minimum eight-hour day, early voting gets a maximum eight-hour day. Weekends, when most people have more time to vote, are limited to eight hours — total.

Wonder why Florida is among just four states that won't automatically give felons back their voting rights after they serve time? The governor doesn't. Instead, he signed a bill that invests more authority in the secretary of state's office, which went too far in trying to remove alleged felons from voting rolls. Now, the office once controlled by Katherine Harris will wield even more control over the supposedly independent county supervisors. In Iowa, Gov. Tom Vilsack has agreed to automatic restoration of felons' voting rights, saying what Gov. Bush won't admit: "When you've paid your debt to society, you need to be reconnected to society." Iowa's shift leaves Florida in the company of Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia as the only states without automatic restoration.

While making it harder to vote, Republicans made it harder for their opponents to collect campaign cash, even while they collect more. Candidates for governor now can spend $20 million, up from $6 million, and still be eligible for public money. The idea is to make the cap so high that no one can reach it. In 1994, then-candidate Bush refused to accept public financing and spent over the limit, allowing Lawton Chiles to collect $1 in public money for every $1 Gov. Bush spent over the cap. Mr. Chiles won. Gov. Bush learned a lesson and made sure it wouldn't happen again. Voters are learning a lesson, too. When their interests conflict with those of Republicans, the Republicans get priority.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

DNC's Look at Ohio

An exhaustive five-month investigative study of the troubled presidential election of 2004 in Ohio has concluded that the state's voters encountered widespread system failure, with more than a quarter of voters - and 52% of African Americans - reporting significant problems at the polls.

According to the report, which was presented to DNC Chairman Howard Dean at a news conference today, the systemic problems plaguing Ohio's voting process included: significant evidence of voter suppression, negligent and poorly trained election officials, long lines, problems with registration status, polling locations, absentee ballots and provisional ballots and unlawful identification requirements at the polls.

Rather than challenge or question the results of the election, the report establishes a factual basis for developing a comprehensive agenda of reforms needed to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote and to have that vote counted.

"Democracy only works when citizens believe election outcomes actually reflect their choices," said Donna Brazile, chair of the Voting Rights Institute and the project's leader. "Our goal was not to question the election result, but to determine whether or not every eligible voter in Ohio who sought to vote was able to cast a ballot and have it properly counted. The data clearly indicates that the system failed far too many Ohio voters."

Report here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Another Republican Cover Up

Here's the latest from the Toledo Blade:

In the final weeks of the 2004 presidential race, the nation focused on Ohio as both campaigns carefully choreographed every move by their candidates, knowing one misstep could throw the keys to the White House into the hands of the opponent.

The national media scrutinized every detail of the high-stakes political battle, as President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry crisscrossed Ohio, energizing their bases and reaching out to swing voters in the Buckeye state, which ultimately decided the race by fewer than 120,000 votes.

At the same time - beneath the surface and out of public view - allegations were swirling that Tom Noe had laundered contributions into President Bush's campaign, and facts were emerging that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation had lost $215 million meant for injured workers in a Bermuda hedge-fund.

Now, more than six months later, those bombshells have created the biggest state government scandal in decades in Ohio. Democrats are charging that Republican leaders suppressed the potentially explosive information until all the votes were counted to save the President's re-election campaign.

The Blade has learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio knew of the campaign-finance allegations against Mr. Noe about three weeks before the November, 2004, election, giving it little time to do a thorough investigation.

Mr. Noe, a Toledo-area coin dealer, was chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio.

Democratic allegations of a GOP cover-up in the loss of $215 million managed by a Pittsburgh firm have surged in the last few days. Records released last week show that high-ranking aides to Gov. Bob Taft worked to suppress revelations about the hedge fund loss in the final days before the presidential election.

"Would it have been enough?" asked Jim Ruvolo, a Toledo consultant who was chairman of Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign in Ohio last year. "With only 118,000 votes, it doesn't take much."


U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, said if Ohioans had learned about the MDL loss and the federal investigation into Mr. Noe's campaign contributions to President Bush before the Nov. 2, 2004, election, state results may have been different.

In addition to the presidential race, the ballot included a U.S. Senate seat. Voters re-elected Mr. Voinovich to a second six-year term over Democratic state Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland.

"This is likely the biggest scandal in our state's history," Mr. Brown said. "To keep that out of the public domain to save George Bush and George Voinovich's political future is pretty reprehensible," he added.


Mr. Mark, the editor of Campaign & Elections, said it is not surprising that The Blade began reporting on investment problems at the Bureau of Workers' Compensation just a few months after the presidential election was certified.

He said major U.S. political scandals tend to come to light in the aftermath of a campaign.

"With Watergate, within a couple of months, all of this started to unravel after [President] Nixon won the election. It's always hard to pinpoint if information was held based on political reasons, but in this case it looks like a lot of people could have had that in mind."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another for the Too Little Too Late File

Fearing that President Bush's political problems may become their own, Republicans in Congress and elsewhere are beginning to yearn for the good old days of seven months ago, when he had somebody to run against.

Voters were worried in November about the economy and the war in Iraq, but they didn't take it out on the incumbent on Election Day. They are now.

Bush's poll ratings are among the worst since he took office, declining in virtually every category since his win (sic) over Democratic Sen. John Kerry. From his handling of the economy, foreign policy and the war in Iraq to his job approval rating and voters' assessment of the country's direction, the president's political scores are in serious decline.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

More 'Coingate' News

For those new to the "Coingate" story, the LA Times does a review:

Now, (Tom) Noe is at the center of a political and financial scandal revolving around an unorthodox $55.4-million fund for the state's workers' compensation bureau that involved the buying and selling of rare coins.

Last month, authorities learned that at least $12 million of the state's investment for injured workers was missing. Two gold coins, worth about $300,000, had somehow been lost in the mail.

The director of the state bureau voluntarily quit. A judge has ordered the return to Ohio of coins stored in four other states and has frozen the Noes' assets.

And as state officials prepare to file criminal and civil charges against Noe, 50, the GOP is stampeding away from the former Lucas County GOP chairman. Dozens of Republicans — including Bush, Schwarzenegger and Ohio Gov. Robert A. Taft — are returning more than $100,000 in donations.

The Toledo Blade has been the one finding all the news. From today's story:

Partisans in Washington argue that a Republican "culture of corruption" extends far beyond Tom Noe and Columbus, reaching all the way to the White House and Capitol Hill.

They say recent revelations about wrongdoing in the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation and its rare-coin investment with Mr. Noe, a prominent Republican campaign contributor, have given new life to Democrats clinging to the belief that last year's election was riddled with corruption in Ohio.

Mr. Noe is facing multiple federal and state investigations, including a probe into whether he laundered money for President Bush's re-election campaign by funneling contributions through people who had not reached the maximum $2,000 donation allowed by federal law - helping Mr. Bush monetarily in the key swing state.

Mr. Noe was classified as a Bush "pioneer" because he raised at least $100,000 for the President's campaign.

The controversy has Democrats questioning whether the Ohio Republicans who permitted the state's rare-coin investment could have been capable of wrongdoing at the polls last November.

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Lorain, said his Republican counterparts in Washington and Columbus have left a trail of misdeeds that was highlighted during last year's presidential race. If President Bush collected illegal money in Ohio, Mr. Brown said, it casts some questions about the results of the election.

"When you see one party with this much power, corruption sets in," Mr. Brown said. "I don't know of any state that has seen it this bad.

"People are stunned by the corruption and arrogance of Ohio's Republicans," he said.

Election questions
That's why some Democratic members of Congress are planning to meet with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean next week to talk about what happened in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election.

Ohio held the keys to the White House last year, deciding the presidential race by a margin of fewer than 120,000 votes.

"I think there should be an investigation of Ohio," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who last week put a statement on the congressional record about Ohio's investment scandal. She said she is hopeful a meeting with Mr. Dean will put Democrats in position to undertake a review of what occurred in her home state.

Some Democrats point to Lucas County for examples of concerns in last year's election. Mrs. Noe was chairman of the county Republican Party and chairman of the county Board of Elections.

In April, she resigned from the county elections board amid concern about how the 2004 election was run. The board was completely recast because of concerns about the failure to secure ballots during last year's election, failure to secure poll books after the official canvass, and problems with some absentee ballot forms.

There were also questions about long lines and a lack of voting machines at polls that typically have a large Democratic voter turnout.

"I can't speak for other counties, but I know inside this county when [Mrs. Noe] was in charge, it was chaotic or it was ineptness," Miss Kaptur said. "Something was very sly. I have become very suspicious of what happened."

She added, "There has been no sunshine into what happened on that board."

If there were alleged problems in Lucas County, Democrats say it should not be assumed that there were not concerns elsewhere in Ohio. Thus, an investigation should take place, they say.

Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio GOP, said the party will welcome any inquiry the Democrats wish to pursue.

"If the Democrats want to continue losing the last election, they can count the votes as many times as they would like," Mr. Bennett said through a spokesman.

The Republicans go on to call it, yes, once again, an 'isolated problem'. Funny how those problems always favor the corrupt Republican party, ain't it?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Free Thinking In A Dirty Glass

Billmon's take on the Washington State story:

Judge John Bridges came back yesterday with a ruling in the GOP's last-gasp suit to overthrow Washington State gubernatorial election, and his message to the party (and to would be gov Dino Rossi) can reasonably be summarized as: "Get a life."

In his ruling, Bridges said the GOP failed to make the case for any deliberate, widespread fraud. He rejected the GOP's argument that an analytical technique called "proportional deduction" showed that most of the illegal votes cast in the election went to Gregoire. He also held that even using Republicans' proposed analytical technique, Gregoire still won. (emphasis added.)

The judge found that the Republicans failed to prove that Gregoire received one illegal vote among those improperly cast. In fact, he said, the only "clear and convincing" evidence he saw was the statements of four felons who said they voted for Rossi and one who said he cast a ballot for a Libertarian candidate.

Judge Bridges then proceeded to subtract those same four votes from Rossi's total, which means the net result of the GOP's legal campaign has been to widen Gregoire's winning margin. I can hear the sound of conservative heads exploding from 3,000 miles away. I've got a feeling Judge Bridges has just been added to the right wing's list of "out of control" liberal judges -- notwithstanding the fact that local Republicans were praising his fairness just a few days ago.

Bridges dismissed the GOP suit with prejudice, meaning the final Republican gambit was an appeal to the state Supreme Court. After thinking it over for a few hours, Rossi realized the math was moving in the wrong direction and decided to throw in the towel. Being the class act that he is, however, Dino couldn't go out with a gesture of reconciliation -- much less an admission that his case didn't have a leg to stand on. No, he had to take a completely gratuitous swipe at the state supremes:

"With today's decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest," Rossi said at his campaign headquarters in Bellevue.

Maybe he's angling to be Frist's running mate.

It's illustrative to contrast the GOP's attitude toward this Washington State dispute -- i.e. fight like rabid junkyard dogs to the end, then piss on the process after you lose -- to the Gore campaign's "oh well, that's way the cookie crumbles" reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Florida case.

Dino: "Because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest."

Gore: "Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it . . . And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."

On the other hand, it's at least mildy encouraging to see the Democratic Party in Washington State give as good as it gets, and fight for power just as ferociously and effectively as the GOP did in Florida.

The truth is we'll never know who "really" won in Washington, just as we'll never know who "really" won in Florida. Even the best-run election has an unavoidable margin of error -- and I think we all understand the average American election is hardly well run. Lacking any equitable way to resolve a statistical tie (there may be no equitable way) the outcome inevitably swings on who holds the balance of political power. The Republicans had it in Florida; the Democrats in Washington State.

I'm not even sure that's a bad thing in and of itself. If an election is conducted fairly -- i.e. no ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, deliberate use of faulty machines, etc -- and the count is honest but the outcome still too close to call, maybe the party with the most popular support (as demonstrated by control of the legislature or other elected state offices) should have the edge.

I know that sounds cynical, and it's imperative to reduce election errors and omissions to the absolute minimum, but the reality is that some uncertainty will always remain. That being the case, it doesn't seem unreasonable to leave the outcome to the party best positioned to move the levers of political power.

The problem, of course, is that this inevitably seems to mean dragging the courts down into the partisan muck, which may be better than fighting it out with tanks in the streets but is still highly corrosive of what's left of democratic legitimacy. As Judge Bridges wrote:

"Unless an election is clearly invalid, when the people have spoken their verdict should not be disturbed by the courts," Bridges said. Nullifying the election, he said, would be "the ultimate act of judicial egotism and judicial activism."

Would that the U.S. Supreme Court -- and the Supreme Court of Florida, for that matter -- had believed likewise.

No good deed goes unpunished, they say, and I'm sure Judge Bridges will pay for his by being the target of a few conservative hate rallies. But to me it's enormously gratifying to see that a backcountry judge in Washington State has more sense, and far more intellectual integrity, than the partisan majority on the Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

The head of American democracy may be rotten almost to the core, but it seems there's still life in the outer extremities. A relatively small cause for hope, perhaps, but better than none at all.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Washington State Update: Sore Loser Losing Again

Not a final ruling yet, but the judge in the case sounds like he's favoring the Democrats in Washington State:

Judge Bridges said Republicans did not meet the burden of showing "clear and convincing" proof.

Bridges said there was evidence of irregularities, "as there appears to be in every election," but "not substantial evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, that improper conduct or irregularities procured Ms. Gregoire's election to the office of governor."

UPDATE: It's over (we can only hope):

WENATCHEE, Wash. - A judge on Monday upheld Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election, rejecting Republicans' bid to nullify the 129-vote victory of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges denied Republican claims that election errors, illegal voters and fraud stole the election from GOP candidate Dino Rossi.

Coingate: Follow the Corrupt Money

State and federal authorities have sicced their investigative dogs on the activities of Thomas Noe, a Toledo coin collector who was chairman of President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign in northwest Ohio and who, over the years, has been a lawn sprinkler of campaign cash to major Republican candidates in the state.

Noe is in trouble because an estimated $12 million to $13 million in state money from a worker's compensation fund is missing after being invested in rare coin funds that Noe controls.

Authorities say they are pursuing criminal charges, and Noe, the gregarious, 50-year-old bankrolling confidant of Ohio Republicans, has become political poison. His former friends, including the governor, couldn't be running any faster to get away from him and the taint of scandal.

In Washington, the Republican National Committee said Thursday it would donate to charities $6,000 that the Bush-Cheney campaign and the RNC received from Noe and his wife, Bernadette. The Bush campaign received more than $100,000 raised by Noe. RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said remaining contributions "appear to be completely appropriate."

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Always Read the Saturday Papers

You can read that the abusing the Koran story is true.

And, in the Tallahassee Democrat, you can read this story:

All it takes is the right access.

Get that, and an election worker could manipulate voting results in the computers that read paper ballots - without leaving any digital fingerprints.

That was the verdict after Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho invited a team of researchers to look for holes in election software.

The group wasn't able to crack the Diebold system from outside the office. But, at the computer itself, they changed vote tallies, completely unrecorded.

Sancho figured Leon County's security could withstand just about any sort of probing and wanted to prove it.

He went to one of the most skeptical - and vocal - watchdogs of election procedures. Bev Harris, founder of Black Box Voting, had experience with voting machines across the country.

She recruited two computer-security experts and made the trip to Tallahassee from her home in Washington state three times between February and late May.

Leon County is one of 30 counties in Florida that use Diebold optical scanners. Voters darken bubbles on a sheet of paper, sort of like filling in the answers on the SAT, and the scanners read them and add up the numbers.

So the task was simple. Get in, tamper with vote numbers, and get out clean.

They made their first attempts from outside the building. No success.

Then, they sat down at the vote-counting computers, the sort of access to the machines an employee might have. For the crackers, security protocols were no problem, passwords unnecessary.

They simply went around them.

After that, the security experts accomplished two things that should not have been possible.

They made 65,000 votes disappear simply by changing the real memory card - which stores the numbers - for one that had been altered.

And, while the software is supposed to create a record whenever someone makes changes to data stored in the system, it showed no evidence they'd managed to access and change information.

When they were done, they printed the poll tapes. Those are paper records, like cash register tape, that show the official numbers on the memory cards.

Two tapes, with different results. And the only way to tell the fake one?

At the bottom, it read, "Is this real? Or is it Memorex?"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Even The Slot Machine Votes in FLA?

From Daily Kos:

What Florida events in November let slide through a special pro-gambling amendment to the constitution – by a whisker – and still bypass the recount that is mandated for a close vote tally? What would a recount have found about the accuracy of machines that counted Castor v. Martinez, Kerry v. Bush — and that counted the ballots for new betting machines.

Specifically, the vote to permit slot machines, as in casinos, race tracks, betting parlors, jai lai.

Amendment #4 in Florida to allow slots at the tracks passed narrowly in a roller-coaster down-then-up vote count that pushed the amendment over the top — thanks only to the strange, belated appearance of absentee ballot counts that were opti-scanned in Broward County, and a flipped vote total in Pinellas County.

As of November 3, the statewide vote margin on Amendment 4 never exceeded 10,000 – ranging from a 6,500-vote edge against allowing slots in South Florida to a margin of 10,000 or so more citizens voting against slot machines.

The amendment looked headed to a razor-thin defeat. Not only that, the 0.1% total state margin would have required a recount of the vote tallies for the constitutional Amendment. (Anything less than 0.5%.) So the vote was 50-50 with 99% of the votes counted, a squeaker.

But a week later, the Amendment was ahead by 93,000 votes. How so?

Well, Broward County found 78,000 absentee votes that had not been counted (absentee votes in Broward are opti-scanned; only the in-precinct Election Day votes are touchscreen). The vendor for Broward is ES&S. Part of the problem was that the ES&S tabulator model used for absentees in Broward could not breach its limit of 32,000 votes without generating a massive numerical error, a newly discovered "counting-backward glitch" (that affected also some North Carolina counties and God knows where else, and that ES&S now has to fix and reprogram for future elections).

Amazingly, in this 50-50 election a miraculous 74,000 of 78,000 new Broward absentee voters voted "Yes" on slot machines. So most voters in the state were split right down the middle, but 95% of the newfound absentee voters were strongly in favor of betting.

Truly, a miracle for betting afficionados and the state Dept. of Education which wanted a dedicated share of the gambling revenues.