Friday, October 29, 2004

Election Protection

Kos has an update on the battle against Republican vote suppression tactics in Ohio. offers resources on voting rights and election protection, including a link to this list of the 30 states which require employers to give workers time off to vote.

Over at Gallimaufry, Mary Kay tells us what we can do to protect the right to vote. Frequent Otters commenter Pat Greene offers links to voting rights resources for every state in the nation. Pat and Mary Kay are each traveling to battleground states to work as election monitors - we here at Respectful of Otters give them both a hearty round of applause.

Finally, if you are challenged at the polls on Tuesday, a toll-free hotline has been set up at 1-866-OURVOTE.

"Widespread Vote Fraud:" Applying Some Common Sense

Lots of accusations of Democratic vote fraud are flying around these days, even before the election has happened. Let's apply a little common sense to the three major pieces of "evidence" presented for challenging Democratic voters.

People are registering at addresses where they don't live, as evidenced by returned mail.

The Republican Party of Ohio sent registered letters to tens of thousands of newly registered voters. A lot of those letters came back as undeliverable, which the Republicans claim is prima facie evidence that those voters don't exist at those addresses.

But what happens when someone tries to deliver a registered letter, and you aren't home? Around here, the mail carrier leaves a little slip inviting you to pick up the letter at the post office. And my carrier always notes who the letter is from.

Now imagine that you're a Democrat, and you get a registered letter from the Republican Party. Why on earth would you go all the way down to the post office and wait in line to pick it up? What could the Republican Party possibly have to say that you'd be interested in reading? Most likely, you ignore the letter. Eventually, the post office returns it to the sender as "undeliverable." And your vote gets challenged as fraudulent.
When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.

The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.

What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.

Herold,who is assistant to the senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron,was one of 976 Summit County voters whose registrations were challenged last week by local Republicans on behalf of the state party.

She went to the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to defend her right to vote and found herself among an angry mob -- people who had to take time off work to defend their right to vote.

After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.
(Via Atrios and Jerome, at MyDD.)

There are more registered voters than eligible voters in some Ohio cities.

What happens when you move, and have to re-register to vote at your new address? You fill out a voter registration card and send it in. The elections board adds you to the rolls for your new precinct and notifies your old precinct that you're no longer registered there. Eventually, your old precinct takes you off the rolls. But that process isn't instantaneous. There's nothing unusual or improper about voters temporarily appearing on the rolls twice, while the bureaucracy grinds through the process of removing them from their previous precinct of record. In particular, it's not surprising that, as voter registration deadlines approach, elections boards are more concerned about adding people to the rolls than they are about removing them from the rolls.

None of this adds up to fraud until a voter actually votes twice. And none of it is under the control of individual voters or organizations conducting voter registration drives. When I moved from the suburbs to the city, it wasn't up to me to tell my suburban precinct not to let me vote there anymore. It was up to the elections board. Did my name appear on the rolls of my suburban precinct for the primary election, when I voted in the city? I have no idea. I didn't try to vote there. So even if my name were on the rolls twice, no fraud was committed.

People have been submitting voter registrations under names like "Mary Poppins" and "Mickey Mouse."

That's what happens when you pay your voter registration workers by the completed form, instead of by the hour. This is perfectly well known, which is why most legitimate voter registration organizations don't give employees or volunteers incentives to forge registrations. Sure, it's fraud on the part of the guy standing outside the supermarket with a clipboard - but is it really going to lead to voter fraud? Could it really be part of a Democratic scheme to stuff the ballot box? I can't see how.

Let's try to imagine how that scenario would play out, shall we?

Someone shows up at the polls in a swing state and tells a pollworker, "My name is Mickey Mouse."

And the pollworker says... "Okay, Mr. Mouse, here's your ballot." The pollwatchers on hand from either party look on, sipping their coffee in unsuspecting bliss.

In what universe would it actually happen that way? Anyone trying to cast a ballot as "Mickey Mouse" is going to be immediately challenged by pollworkers, who, while they may be elderly in most precincts, are hardly so culturally illiterate as to not have heard of the most famous American cartoon character of all time. And even if you imagine a corrupt or clueless pollworker allowing "Mr. Mouse" to pass by unchallenged, it's hard to imagine the partisan pollwatchers doing the same. It is simply ridiculous to imagine that fraudulent ballots could be cast under famously fictional names. And it's even more ridiculous to imagine that Democrats would pursue such a boneheadedly transparent strategy in an attempt to steal the election.

Are Republicans legitimately picturing a smoke-filled room full of Democratic operatives cackling, "we'll register every character in the Disney archive! No one will ever catch on! Our plan is foolproof!" ...Of course they aren't. They're just trying to confuse the issue and set up the rationale for a preemptive challenge of a Kerry victory.

The DLC's New Donkey reminds us that the Ohio vote suppression efforts have Karl Rove's fingerprints all over them, and reminds us of what to expect next.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Advice For The Amoral

If you're going to try to pull off a slimy election trick, you need to do it right.

Say, for example, that you want to accuse your Democratic opponent of distributing hideous flyers that make fun of developmental disabilities. You could have one operative sneak a stack of the flyers into Democratic headquarters, and then send another operative in to "find" them and start an enormous public outcry. Instant media frenzy! Big embarrassment for your opponent!

Sounds simple, right? But, well, okay. I don't want to sound like I think I know more than you do, just because I have a Ph.D. and all, but trust me, this is important: in order for the trick to work, when your second guy goes in to "find" the nasty fliers, they have to still be there.

Looks like the Tennessee congressional campaign of Republican Dave Dahl missed out on that one crucial requirement.
"Someone brought them in and they left. I looked at them and said, 'This is not something we need in here. This goes in the trash,' " she said. "Well, here comes a man up and raising Cain and Mr. (David) Reynolds (the other volunteer) told him they were out in the trash. He went and picked it out of the trash and said, 'Well, this is going in the paper.' "
Both Dahl's campaign and the Traditional Values Coalition insisted that their information about the flyer came from a guy who apparently knows nothing about it.

As Nick Confessore points out, even without the stupid mistakes, nothing about the story passes the smell test.
Think about the phrasing of the flyer. Who on earth is it supposed to convince? People who were planning to vote for Bush but, on reflection, decide they won't want anyone thinking they're a retard? Please. The point of the flyer is to tick off and motivate Bush supporters, while dismaying and demotivating Fitzhugh's supporters and also making it hard for him to win ticket-splitters.
Yeah, we all know one or two really stupid fringe liberals who might make a flyer like this and post it online. But Dahl and the TVC claim that the Dems happily distributed the flyer from their central headquarters for two weeks. In what universe of real people who are paid money for their political expertise would that actually happen?

Update: Kieran writes about this issue at Crooked Timber, in a post that is superior to mine for two reasons: (1) it is much, much shorter, and (2) it refers to "the old pig-fucker strategy."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Republicans Fund Massive Vote Fraud in Nevada

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash. [...]

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats. [...]

"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assistant to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.

Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.
Most likely, any FBI investigation will be put off until after the election - just as the Florida "felons" wrongly purged from the voter lists in 2000 didn't have their voting rights restored until after the 2002 election was safely passed. What will happen in the meantime?

Needless to say, Nevada's a swing state - estimated by CBS news to be a "toss-up" with less than a month to go before the election. Voter registration closed today. The hundreds or thousands of disenfranchised Democrats appear to have little recourse - unless Republican governor Kenny Guinn steps in to extend the voter registration deadline. Governor Guinn's contact information can be found here.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Credibility Gap

Nick Confessore at Tapped links to a video clip of an outstanding two-minute speech by Ohio Representative Tim Ryan. (Alternate link here in mp3 format, courtesy of a MyDD reader.)

Ryan is debating the infamous HR 163, Chuck Rangel's draft reinstatement bill of January 2003. Apparently, it finally came to the attention of House Republicans that Americans find rumors of an upcoming draft to be both credible and frightening. Now, Republicans and their supporters are falling all over themselves to dismiss the foolishness of the "draft hoax." Hasn't Bush promised never, ever to reinstitute the draft? Don't we trust him?

Tim Ryan doesn't.
The same people that told us that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11; the same people that told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; the same people that told us we were going to be able to use the oil for reconstruction; the same people that told us we were going to be greeted as liberators, not occupiers; the same people, the same president that told us the Taliban is gone; the same president that told us Poland is our ally two days before they pulled out; the same president that told us Iraq is going just great; the same president that told us the economy is going just great; the same people that told us the tax cut was going to create millions of jobs; the same people that told us the Medicare program was going to cost $400 billion when it really cost $540 billion.

SO PLEASE FORGIVE US for not believing what you're saying. Please forgive the students of this country for not believing what you're saying. Not one thing, not one thing about this war that's been told to the American people, that's been told to these college students, has been true. Not one thing.
But my transcript doesn't do him justice. Watch or listen to the speech.

Update: BlogPAC is raising money to run the Ryan clip as an online ad. Please consider contributing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

October Conflicts

We here at Respectful of Otters are having much more trouble deciding what to watch on TV this season than you would ordinarily expect for a political blogger. This is Presidential Debate season, full of exciting head-to-head contests between Bush and Kerry, Cheney and Edwards. It's the final countdown to the election, and commentators - even part-time, amateur commentators like me - have no business taking their eyes off the ball even for a minute.

But this is also the baseball postseason, and we here at Respectful of Otters are the kind of people who reschedule the observance of their own birthday to ensure that it falls on a World Series off day.[1]

So I watched about half of the Cheney-Edwards debate last night - the foreign policy half - and then switched back to the Minnesota Twins' thrilling 2-0 defeat of the hated New York Yankees.

I was hoping to be wowed by Edwards, and I wasn't. But I think he held his own in the foreign policy section, and I enjoyed watching him use his rhetorical skills to keep Cheney's feet in the fire - without diminishing any of his own charm. (I guess trial lawyers get a lot of practice at that.) It looks like undecided voters were pleased with Edwards as well.

I was hoping to be wowed by Johan Santana's pitching, and I kind of was. He didn't have his killer changeup last night - apparently it was just too cold in Yankee Stadium - and he allowed a lot of baserunners. But it's hard to argue with a shutout of the team with the best winning percentage in baseball.

Here are my predictions:

In the ALDS, Boston beats Anaheim and Minnesota beats New York. Anaheim did a phenomenal job down the stretch, but their offense can be summed up in two words: Vladimir Guerrero. Boston's talent pool goes much deeper. I know that the Yankees have some sort of creepy playoff juju - George Steinbrenner must sacrifice goats, or something - but they just don't have the starting pitching this year.

Over in the National League, I think St. Louis is untouchable. They'll blow past the Dodgers without appearing to break a sweat. The Braves will manage to beat the Astros despite having sold off virtually every one of their best players. Chipper Jones and J.D. Drew will lead them to the NLDS victory; the most we can expect from their starting pitching is competence.

In the ALCS, I like Boston over Minnesota, mostly because I think that the Red Sox will lose in the most painful way possible for Boston fans. Since they won't be playing the Yankees in the ALCS, they'll make it all the way to the World Series, stirring up major hopes all across New England. There they'll meet St. Louis, who will trounce the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

St. Louis takes the World Series. Steinbrenner fires Joe Torre and makes a major offseason play for Nomar Garciaparra, instead of doing the sensible thing and building up the rotation. Despite his World Series ring, Albert Pujols begs to be traded to an AL team so that he has a shot in hell of winning the MVP award in a league not including Barry Bonds. Cubs and the Red Sox fans Just Wait 'Til Next Year. Again.

(Speaking of the long-disappointed hopes of the Red Sox, a fascinating article at ESPN exposes the sordid anti-Semitic roots of the "Curse of the Bambino." It's well worth reading, whether you believe in the Curse or not. I was also startled to learn from the article that the Curse is a relatively recent invention, with the first print references appearing in the mid-1980s.)

A final note: Congratulations to my Significant Otter, whose fantasy baseball team, the Key Largo Fighting Sandcrabs, finished a respectable third in their fourteen-team league. Go, Sandcrabs!

[1] We here at Respectful of Otters kind of wish that we'd never picked up the habit of saying "we here at Respectful of Otters," considering how badly we keep getting tangled in syntax problems.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Where's The Outrage?

Briefly mentioned in Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing, this story should be everywhere. No member of the Bush Administration should be able to appear in public without being asked about it. Democrats should consider tattooing this Condoleezza Rice quote on their foreheads.
One of the most-cited gotchas from Thursday was Bush's assertion that "the A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice."

But CNN reports that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, appearing on Late Edition, "said Bush did not misspeak when he said that the network of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan -- the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program who was caught selling secrets on the global black market -- had been 'brought to justice.'

"Khan is living in a villa and was pardoned this year by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. None of Khan's co-conspirators have been brought to trial."

Here's how Rice explained it, from the Late Edition transcript.

"A.Q. Khan is out of business and he is out of the business that he loved most. And if you don't think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He's nationally humiliated."
These people are fundamentally unserious about the War on Terror. There's no other explanation for why the National Security Adviser would consider the "humiliation" of being driven out of business to be adequate punishment for selling nuclear secrets. Peaceful protesters at the Republican National Convention got harsher punishment than that.

Where are the warbloggers on this one? If Rice were a Democrat, they'd be calling for her head.

Monday, October 04, 2004

"Global Test:" The Vocabulary Test

In the immediate post-debate coverage, a murmur went through the lefty blogosphere that perhaps Kerry shouldn't have used the words "global test." Perhaps, despite Kerry's stellar overall debate performance, the Bush campaign would be able to tear him down by focusing their rage and contempt on those two words.

President Bush said Saturday Democrat John Kerry's debate remark that U.S. preemptive military action should be subject to a "global test" would give other nations a veto over American national security decisions. [...]

"When our country's in danger the president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America," Bush said.
The further-right wing have taken up that ball and run with it, of course, because the whole idea of a global anything pushes their UN/black helicopter/world government buttons. The temptation for the left, of course, is to respond to these attacks by defending internationalism.

But am I the only one who didn't read Kerry's words that way at all?
No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons. [emphasis mine.]
The word "global" is often used as a synonym for "international," yes. But it's also the opposite of "specific." I think Kerry meant to use the word in that second sense. I think he meant that there are no specific parameters under which you can say that preemptive war is okay - that instead, there's a global, or overarching, requirement that you must be able to prove that your rationale is sound and evidence-based. No other interpretation makes sense in light of the rest of the clause, which refers to the opinions of "your countrymen, your people." It's also consistent with the Kerry campaign's restatement of his point:
Kerry spokesman Phil Singer defended Kerry's comment by saying: "The global test is not asking for a permission slip. It's making sure that your decisions stand up to scrutiny and are backed by facts."
At the debate, Kerry unfortunately went on to give an internationalist example, flowing from the second part of his sentence - "you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons." He contrasts the international credibility the U.S. had during the Cuban Missile Crisis with the embarrassment of Colin Powell presenting "evidence" to the United Nations that the Administration already knew was highly suspect. It's an excellent example, but it does add ammunition to the Bush campaign's misinterpretation of his point.

What was Bush's initial response to the "global test" remark? He said:
Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean, "passes the global test," you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.
I think that's true. I think that Bush heard "global," thought "international," and was not aware that the word "global" has an additional meaning. And actually, I blame Kerry for using a word that was open to misinterpretation. Now, I use the word "global" in the sense of "general" all the time - I might describe a patient as having "global deficits in cognition," for example - but in a foreign policy debate, you can't really blame people for thinking of the actual globe.

William Saletan is trying to put the focus back where it belongs.
Listen to Bush's words again. "The president's job is not to take an international poll," he says. "Our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals." Bush doesn't say these decisions belong to the United States. He says they belong to the Oval Office. He frames this as patriotism, boasting that he doesn't care whether he offers evidence sufficient to convince people in France. He shows no awareness or concern that evidence is also necessary to convince people in Ohio. He says it isn't his job to take a "poll," to hear what others think. He needs no validation.
Let's hope it sticks, but I don't think it will. The echo chamber of the press is awfully strong.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Some Speeches: More Free Than Others

Al Lorenz is an NCO with 20 years of service, currently serving in Iraq. He wrote a blistering piece about the war for a libertarian web magazine, entitled "Why We Cannot Win."
I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality. [...]

Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life. It is tragic, indeed criminal that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as the blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional.
Needless to say, this created a great deal of controversy, with some arguing that Lorenz's comments might harm the war effort or tarnish America's reputation abroad. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld leapt to Lorenz's defense.
The defense secretary said he could not prevent military officials from making controversial statements.

"We're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our country," Rumsfeld said. "I think that for anyone to run around and think that that can be managed and controlled is probably wrong. Saddam Hussein could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like."
Oh wait. That's not what happened. Actually, the military chain of command is planning to bring charges against Lorenz for "making a statement with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the U.S. by any member of the Armed forces" or perhaps for "the conduct of partisan political activity." (There ought to be a long line-up for that charge, given that, as Kos points out, 3% of the delegates to the Republican National Convention were apparently ative duty military.)

The Rumsfeld quote actually refers to Lt. Gen. William Boykin, and his habit of giving public speeches, in full Army uniform, in which he explicitly defined the War on Terror as a religious war between Christianity and Islam. Sure, Boykin's speeches fed ammunition to the Al-Jazeera propaganda machine, and sure, they didn't look very good from the perspective of our Islamic allies, but what could anyone do about that pesky right of the serving military to unrestricted free speech?

I guess that between then and now, they found some solutions. No, wait, I'm wrong again: they had those solutions then.